Southend chairman Ron Martin remortgaged his house to pay off some of the club’s debts not long ago. So it’s to manager Phil Brown’s credit that despite the club’s sometimes desperate struggles with money, he has managed to get his team promoted to League One and kept them there last season, even challenging for the play-off places at one point.
Life is proving a tougher struggle this time round, with last season’s player of the year, attacking midfielder Jack Payne, decamping to Huddersfield and Southend currently in the bottom four after just one league win, an improbable 3-0 away victory against a Sheffield United side one suspects was still looking to get into their stride after a summer refit.
The Shrimpers did also net a creditable 1-1 draw at leaders Bolton last Saturday. However, the result was slightly misleading because after Southend pinched an early goal, it was one-way traffic the other way as Bolton tried relentlessly to break down a visiting team who had been specifically set up to defend in order to avoid any embarrassment for Brown on his return to his old stomping ground, where he was No 2 to Sam Allardyce before going solo with the Mudrats.
It may not have been pretty by Southend but it was certainly effective and showed that the lowest of the three SUFCs in League One may be short of points but not of grit and determination.
Whether Brown treats us with the same defensive reverence we will have to see, but another away point against a top side would certainly be something to aim for in Southend’s current position.
Brown may also prefer to defend against us because he has an injury worry up front, with Nile Ranger, the maverick former Newcastle striker who has been given “one last chance” by Brown, picking up a knock last month after showing early promise working in tandem with another summer arrival, the Republic of Ireland front man Simon Cox. Another experienced new signing, the former West Ham defender Anton Ferdinand, will also miss the game because of injury.
What Scunny need to watch out for on Saturday is Southend’s 3-5-2 formation, with the wing-backs coached specifically to get crosses into the box. Because of that, and Southend’s dogged organisation, we need to stay alert and patient, especially if the goals don’t come straight away.
Hopefully last Saturday’s rest following eight games in 24 days will stand the Iron in good stead and we can emerge refreshed after the Port Vale defeat and get back to winning way. Three points would certainly capitalise on the kind way the other results fell for us last weekend, leaving the boys still placed fifth with, of course, now a game in hand.
There is also the anticipation of seeing our three new signings, though when to introduce them is a matter for debate – already well aired on the forum. What we don’t need are slip-ups against the likes of Southend.
This is the sort of team we should be beating if we want to go up.