The news of Simon Cox recently extending his Roots Hall tenure by another season was met with a surge of enthusiasm from most ‘Blues’ fans, as one of Southend’s most consistent performers this term was rewarded with an extended stay.
Since developing through the Reading academy, Cox has spent the majority of his esteemed career playing above the third tier.
Prior to his arrival in Essex, various spells in the Championship alongside a brief stint in the Premier League had seen Cox establish himself as a renowned striker, leading to full Irish honours on the international stage.
The contribution that the veteran forward has made this season is testament of his significance to the Blues.
Cox’s best ever scoring season was at his current level, League One, back when he netted 29 goals for Swindon Town ten years ago.
It wasn’t in fact until he joined Southend back in the summer of 2016 that he amassed double figures in league goals again after that prolific campaign in Wiltshire.
Strikers have always been ultimately judged on their goals, however in the case of Cox, exceptional circumstances can be contended.
Throughout his career Cox has built his game on his natural ability, with his technical talents a clear stand-out at times amongst his peers at Roots Hall.
In spells this term he has seemed to be a step-ahead of the majority on the pitch, with his vision and craft shining as a bright spot in an arduous campaign for Southend.
Due to a startling accumulation of injuries, Chris Powell has struggled to name a consistent starting XI, but Cox has managed to defy the trend.
His early season partnership with Tom Hopper was one of real promise, the two linking well with Hopper’s physical presence and Cox’s evasive movement seeming to be a perfect blend.
However, a season-ending cruciate injury put an end to the budding partnership, with Cox showing his versatility by leading the line alone at times since.
On occasions, Southend have struggled to perhaps provide Cox with the service needed to get the best from him, leading to him dropping deeper to hunt for the ball himself.
Although it’s not ideal for a lone front man to go searching for the ball, Southend have sorely needed a player of Cox’s quality on the ball.
A lack of form for wide-men such as Michael Kightly and Stephen McLaughlin at times this season has put the emphasis for creativity on others, and more often than not, it has been Cox who has grasped the initiative.
There is no doubt that Chris Powell’s favoured set-up is 4-4-2, with a traditional approach of two out-and-out wingers on the flanks getting chalk on their boot’s and balls in the box.
But injuries and a disrupted squad have put those blueprints effectively out of commission, leading to various different set-ups and formations.
The versatility and quality of Simon Cox has proven invaluable in these difficult scenarios, and Powell will be under no illusions of how different this season could have been without his veteran forward.
Southend still aren’t certain of League One survival, but now on 40 points, should have enough about them to maintain their status, with Cox’s contribution key.
Whilst Cox has perhaps not been as consistently prolific as he’d have liked throughout his career, he has certainly re-discovered his shooting boots in Essex.
Cox accrued double figures in his first season at Root’s Hall with 16 league goals, and he has already enhanced last year’s tally of ten league goals this term. His fifth career hat-trick netted during the superb draw against Portsmouth is testament to his goal-scoring prowess since signing for the Blues.
He is currently sitting on 15 league goals and is well on-course to have his most productive scoring season for Southend.
— Southend United (@SUFCRootsHall) February 18, 2019
Despite his three goals in the valiant fightback against Portsmouth, it was his overall performance which rightly won the plaudits and saw him named as Man of the Match.
His astute movement on the blind-side of his marker allowed him to guide home a classy header to stir some fight after a dismal opening half hour for the Blues.
What followed was a sterling display, with his movement and work rate the cornerstone for Southend to complete a rousing fightback.
After calmly sliding home a penalty to put a point within touching distance, he completed the move of the match, a stunning one-two with Tim Dieng, the latter sliding through a perfect reverse pass for Cox to steer into the top corner.
Not for the first time, Cox was the catalyst for a performance full of character and grit that has been absent at times during the season. When captain Sam Mantom was replaced, the armband was handed to Cox and he has certainly led from the front this season.
The Blues finished the game with no less than five academy products on the pitch, and the emergence of some exciting prospects has been the main positive to take from a rollercoaster campaign.
With the appearance of young Norman Wabo from the bench, and the recent headline-grabbing emergence of Charlie Kelman, playing alongside a professional like Cox should prove invaluable for Southend’s striking prospects. Aspects like this shouldn’t be overlooked, as it isn’t just on the pitch Cox is proving invaluable for Southend.
After some grumbles from Blues fans very early in the season following his barren spell in the second half of last season, Cox has silenced critics and then gone one better to re-establish himself as an imperative component in Chris Powell’s side.
As one of the shining lights in a turbulent spell, Southend fans can look forward in earnest to Cox continuing his productive partnership with Tom Hopper next season, with the imposing and impressive Stephen Humphrys also in the mix.
The summer should see key personnel return from the treatment table, alongside a probable return to Powell’s favoured approach. With this in mind, Southend fans can look forward to their team striving for a more positive campaign next year. There is no doubt that Simon Cox is sure to be the ever-consistent cornerstone once again.