My views on being a Southend United fan and how the club has attempted to stabilise, including my views on the proposed stadium move.
Being a Southend United fan, I felt that now might be an enjoyable time to take a look at the progress the club has made so far this season. We are currently sat on top of the League Two pile after seventeen games, reached the semi-finals of the JPT and have taken Preston North End to a home-replay in the FA Cup first round. Not a bad start to the season! There have been many fantastic achievements already this season and the foremost enjoyable factor is on the pitch itself. Southend are currently on a thirteen-game unbeaten run in all competitions and the team as a whole has developed considerably over the summer.
Ryan Hall in action this season.
At the beginning of last season, Paul Sturrock, was given one of the toughest challenges of his career to date – to rebuild Southend United, with limited funds and less than a handful of first-team players. It is fair to say he has achieved that in abundance; This Southend United side no longer looks like a bunch of players drafted in to be able to field a side in the league, but a team that is playing with togetherness and desire to gain promotion to the third tier of the English Football Pyramid. Sturrock also appears to have been a major force in the development of players at the club, such as Kane Ferdinand (now linked with a £500k move to The Hammers), Ryan Hall (top assists in League Two) and Mark Phillips who has been an instrumental figure this season.
Another pleasing factor from this season is the way the club has conducted itself off the pitch after the issues that occurred last season. The club appointed Tara Brady as the new Chief Executive of the club and he appears to have brought a desire to change the business ethic at the club. An article was released recently, claiming that Tara had worked hard to reduce the fees that had been paid to players’ agents – However, this had not affected the calibre of player the club could attract. The strength of the squad has been proven after Luggy (Paul Sturrock) decided against signing former Arsenal/Spurs man Rohan Ricketts and more recently Yannick Boli (former PSG striker and once linked with Real Madrid).
Finally, a recent BBC interview with Ron Martin (Club Chairman) has shown that the club is 90% of the way through the process to commence building work on the proposed new stadium at Fossetts Farm. Martin claimed that they are at an ‘advanced stage’ and although he didn’t want to put a definite date on when the development would begin; he indicated that early 2012 would be the latest.
This is an exciting time for any Southend United fan and also for any Southend resident, but fans should also be aware that many clubs have moved into a new stadium and encountered further financial problems. There is the ‘myth of a new stadium’ solving clubs financial worries and this has unfortunately been the case for now non-league Darlington Football Club, who are sat in the National Conference Division with a 25,000 seater stadium and only able to open one stand for a match. Not to mention Coventry City, who are in the Championship and struggling even to afford the rent of the pitch itself, let alone the actual physical aspect of the stadium.
Having said this, I feel Southend United are in a position of far greater potential than Darlington. With the unveiling of Southend Airport becoming International, the building of major sporting training venues and the general development of the area, could there be a better time for a club to attempt to increase its commercial capacity and revenue streams? The opportunities, if managed correctly, could be endless; The facilities at disposal will allow for the community projects to expand considerably, the Southend United youth academy will be able to aim for the next category under The EPPP and Fossetts Farm may even be able to compete for national events such as Under-21 International matches.
So, I certainly don’t mean to sound negative about the future of Southend United, I am extremely excited, but I want fans to understand that the new stadium will not instantly secure the clubs future. There will be an unbelievable amount of work to do, but I believe if done correctly, this could be a great time to be a Shrimper. Let’s hope the team sticks to together and finishes League Two the way it’s started!