For a while now, my club, Southend United have fallen into a never-ending hole that they have struggled to get out of.
The Blues have headed in a downward spiral that has seen them endure back-to-back relegations from League One to the National League. Poor recruitment and bad ownership are just two things that have contributed to Southend’s recent downfall, however, this slowly seems to be changing.
Mismanagement was a pivotal figure in why Southend’s status as an established Football League side came to an end. A succession of managers arrived at the club in an attempt to steady the ship but not many of them were able to do that due to the turmoil the club were in. There was no long-term plan at Roots Hall with various players joining who did not match the playing style that the managers wanted to play.
Phil Brown’s departure in October was a welcome sight for the Shrimpers faithful after an abysmal run of results that saw the South Essex side potentially facing three relegations in a row. Brown chose to recruit experienced players who have previously won promotions from the division but that quickly turned out to be the wrong decision. The team was often overrun by their opponents and struggled to stamp their authority onto most games, even against the ‘worse’ teams.
The return of club legend and former captain Kevin Maher as head coach was a step in the right direction. Alongside him is ex-Barnet manager Darren Currie as assistant head coach and ex-Canvey Island manager Mark Bentley as first-team coach. The management team had to adapt to their new surroundings and that was clear as they only triumphed in one of their first five games.
Another huge challenge that was put on them was that at the end of last year, the club were placed under a transfer embargo by the National League. This meant that when the club needed players desperately to help their dire situation, they were unable to recruit any. However, at the end of December, the transfer embargo was lifted which quickly brought a flurry of much-needed signings.
When in the past the Shrimpers have been relying on free transfers, with the new scouting department in place the vast majority of signings came from the National League North and South. The main reason why the club were able to find these gems in the non-league was the appointment of John Still as Head of Football in November. The 71-year-old has a wide range of contacts throughout the football pyramid which massively helped with recruitment, as well as former Liverpool and England international Stan Collymore’s employment as Senior Football Strategist.
Despite these positives surrounding the club, the unpopular owner Ron Martin is still at the club and he is the one who has been blamed for the chaos at the club in recent seasons. For most of Martin’s tenure at the club, which he bought in 1998, he has been an unpopular figure among the fanbase. The 69-year-old has had his main focus on building a new stadium, Fossetts Farm, ever since his arrival but nothing key has come to fruition.
In his reign, the club have been put under a few transfer embargos due to debts that he owes to respective companies. In Phil Brown’s final game in October, fans were angry with their current owner and marched onto the pitch twice with a ‘Martin Out’ banner during the game to show their frustrations towards him. Before Collymore’s official involvement with the club in the summer, he brought in Tom Lawrence as CEO which means that Martin now only deals with the Fossetts Farm project while Lawrence monitors the day to day running of the club.
From Boxing Day to the 15th of March, Southend went 13 games unbeaten which made the club the most positive it has been for a long time. The Shrimpers were in the relegation picture not so long ago but this 13-game unbeaten run put them in mid-table with no real chance of promotion or relegation this season. Next season’s main aim is to push for promotion however that will be a tall order with many competitive teams in this division.
Despite a recent run of disappointing results, the Blues seem to be going on the right pathway for the future alongside a very good structure off the pitch in terms of recruitment and scouting.