It’s been a tough start to the season, with just one win in the opening six games. Do you feel that this is down to the number of injuries to key players or are there bigger problems at Roots Hall?
PM: We only have 23 players of which 3 are currently injured with long term issues and Coker, McLaughlin and Ferdinand have also now picked up knocks. We don’t have a lot of money in the kitty and haven’t done for years and once again the season will depend on the vagaries of the loan market.
AAS: Bigger issues. Unfortunately the two best players from last season, Daniel Bentley and Jack Payne, have been badly missed. Phil Brown has in turn failed to address issues such as lack of physical presence, lack of guile and weaknesses at set plays. Injuries have played their part, Nile Ranger almost single handedly destroyed Sheffield United in his 20-minute cameo debut before being carried off. Michael Timlin is also a key man who should be back soon.
AS: I think the injuries are a factor in the slow start as we are missing key men like Anthony Wordsworth and Michael Timlin who are a big physical presence in midfield. However, most fans would agree that the squad lacks depth and the injuries we have are exposing that at the moment.
Do you feel that you strengthened the side over the summer and how do you see the rest of the reason playing out for Southend?
PM: Absolutely not. We lost approximately 12 players in the summer and have bought in the likes of Simon Cox, Nile Ranger and Anton Ferdinand who for us are major signings. He seems to have replaced quantity with perceived quality but thats no good if all three have a chequered history with injuries.
AAS: A season of struggle awaits. Simon Cox is a decent recruit but is already feeding off scraps. There is little or no creativity in the side. However, the capture of Ryan Innis could be a game changer if he can stay fit. Exactly the sort of dominant centre back we have been after. Anton Ferdinand and Nile Ranger both have quality but are ‘risk’ signings.
AS: Certain areas have been strengthened such as the right back position with Jason Demetriou coming in, who is a much more attacking full back. However other areas look weaker with Mark Oxley yet to impress fans after replacing Dan Bentley in goal and Jermaine McGlashan has been inconsistent on the wing. The rest of the season depends on players such as Nile Ranger and Michael Timlin staying fit and performing to their potential week in, week out. If that’s the case, we are capable of pushing for the play-offs.
Your Chairman Ron Martin has said there was an ‘enormous’ attempt to sign Leyton Orient striker Jay Simpson this summer but in the end Leyton Orient didn’t want to sell. Are you still a little bit short in the striking department?
PM: They wanted £200,000 for him which is out of our league financially. Brown’s biggest problem is his mouth, promising stuff he is not and cannot deliver. We are short in most departments. Cox and Mooney are experienced but we don’t play to their strengths. Ranger picked up a bad injury on his debut and our only other striker is a first year pro moved up from the u21s
AAS: Yes, we have David Mooney, Simon Cox, an injured Nile Ranger and youth team graduate Jason Williams. We are very short of physical presence and pace without Ranger.
AS: We only have three fit recognised strikers at the club plus Nile Ranger so yes we are short up front. David Mooney isn’t an out and out goalscorer, Jason Williams is young and lacking confidence while our big signing Simon Cox has yet to fully find his feet at this level. The one game Ranger did play though, he linked up well with Cox and if they both stay fit, could be a great partnership.
Phil Brown admitted last week that he did consider taking the Bolton job this summer. How did that go down with Shrimpers fans and how is he fairing as boss at Roots Hall?
PM: He has openly touted for a number of jobs since his been here and I understand he is genuinely shocked there has been no call from Sam Allardyce about a job in the England set up.
He has also spoken on TV quite disparagingly about “only” being the manager of Southend which sticks in the throat of most fans. His win/loss record since around Feb would have got most managers the sack (we have lost 11 out of the last 16 games). I have not been a fan for sometime, in my opinion he got us promoted by the lottery of a play off penalty shoot out when most managers should have got that squad up automatically.
He doesn’t seem to have any back up plan when his game plan doesn’t work and his substitutions are at times mystifying, often taking off a striker for a midfielder when we are losing. His failure to bring in promised recruits in the window is the final straw for many. Most Shrimpers no longer back him and the football played under him in the last two years has been among the dullest and most predictable I have seen in 40 years of supporting Southend.
We need a change as soon as possible but its unlikely to happen as Brown has shares in the club in lieu of salary and has at least two years of his deal to run (he was offered a years extension last season but no on knows if he signed it or not) This would make him under contract until the end of the 2018/19 season by which time, on current form, we could be out of the League let alone the division.
The loss of form from February coincided with Brown locking the players in the dressing room following a defeat at Swindon last season and it would seem he has “lost” the dressing room since then. One player was so enraged by the dressing down and behaviour he decided to catch the train home by himself. He never played for us again and was regarded by all as a decent hard working pro. Many fans question the correlation between Brown’s TV and radio work and time spent at the training ground. We also have the largest backroom staff we have ever had to allow him to do the punditry work, a staff we can ill afford in all honesty. Suffice to say Mr Brown is not flavour of the month amongst the majority of fans and for our return on investment on him is not looking great in my opinion.
AAS: He was doing a good job until Xmas 2015. At that stage he appeared to start believing his own hype and since then he has been taking us down hill at a rate of knots. His man-management skills are poor and he fell out with several players last season. He lacks nous in the transfer market especially with forward players; his permanent striker signings have scored 17 goals between them in 3.5 years; and he has a tendency to run his mouth off such as the example you give. Most fans would happily see the back of him.
AS: The fans have definitely been on Brown’s back recently with many feeling that he should have left over the summer where he was linked with Bolton and a coach in the England set up. Personally I think he has been great for the club. He got us out of League Two, although the football wasn’t particularly attractive, and kept us up comfortably last season. I believe with the signings he has made he is trying to change to a more attacking style and as fans we need to give him more time to do that.
Brown seems to have a habit of getting sent to the stands by the referee and has only just returned from a four match ban. Is he likely to be starting another touchline ban on Saturday after his latest sending off at the weekend?
PM: He has a suspended fine from the last offence which will now be triggered and doubtless another ban will follow. He cannot complain about them either his behaviour is disrespectful.
AAS: Very possibly although I doubt it would make much of a difference.
AS: I don’t think he will but he was angry with a challenge on Ryan Leonard, which from where I was sitting could have been a red, and the 4th official felt it was enough to send him to the stands. The Bolton fans seemed to enjoy it!
You lost Daniel Bentley to Brentford in the summer, who was argubally your star man. Have you replaced him?
PM: Not really. Brown has bought in Mark Oxley from Hibs and he has looked shaky and lacking in confidence. Youngster Ted Smith, who is capped at England U20 level, has played the last two games. In truth we were spoilt with Bentley who was well above League 1 level. We also lost Jack Payne in similar out of contract circumstances to Huddersfield and he was our prime creative catalyst as well leading scorer last season. That kind of loss is tough to replace.
AAS: Mark Oxley has come in and has struggled for confidence so far not helped by some of our more moronic fans who have given him a hard time. Ted Smith, England’s under20 goalkeeper is also at the club but has found it tough in his first few appearances. Plenty of potential though.
AS: Not really! Mark Oxley has come in from Hibernian and has a good deal of experience but has not impressed myself or the fans so far. Ted Smith is another academy product and has a big future at the club but perhaps isn’t quite ready to take the number one shirt. However replacing someone like Bentley was always going to be difficult and it will take time.
Who else should we look out for in the Shrimpers side?
PM: Stephen McLaughlin has started the season very well but is apparently now injured and missed the Bolton game. Harry Kyprianou has come in from the under 21s and is a left back but has managed to score twice in his first two games as a pro and has looked very assured at this level.
AAS: If Ryan Leonard is on his game, we are too. Young wing-back Harry Kyprianou has had a dream start to his pro career scoring twice in two games. However he may be displaced by Ben Coker. Simon Cox is a very clever player if he gets the ball.
AS: Ryan Leonard has been our star man in midfield for a few seasons now and has a terrific long shot on him, Adam Barrett, our captain, is a club legend and a solid centre back at this level, while the last couple of games have seen the emergence of Harry Kyprianou at left back who scored against Bolton and is a quick attacking full back.
Where will Saturday’s game be won or lost and a score prediction?
PM: It depends if our creeky defence will withstand the pressure exerted on it. As it stands I would be happy with a point but based on your start to the season I cannot say I am optimistic of getting anything from Glanford Park!
AAS: I’m afraid to say it will be the Scunny fans celebrating a comfortable victory. Having said that if we score first it might be a different story. Head says 2-0 defeat if only for the fact we have never won at Glanford Park.
AS: The game will be won or lost in front of goal as Southend always create a lot of chances so it’s whether we take them or not. If we play with the spirit and determination we did against Bolton, I make us slight favourites so I will say a hard fought 2-1 win!
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