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What Does The Future Hold For Southend United?

Wednesday 8th February 2012
The title of this article is a question that I have asked myself many times over the past few years. The timing of this article comes about a week after it was announced that the clubs Chief Executive Tara Brady was leaving the club after only 13 months in the role. It came as a bit of a shock to most Southend fans including myself who believed that everything behind the scenes at the club was fine and there were no real problems whatsoever. When the announcement was made however, it become very clear that things were not going as well as we thought.

An official statement from the club's website made by Chairman Ron Martin seemed to make out that Brady was more concerned with matters on the pitch than off it and that Martin felt he was acting more in a Director Of Football role instead of the role he was supposed to be in along with other comments about finances and investments. While initially Brady said he wouldn't be making any comments to the media, the statement managed to make him change his mind and today Brady made comments in the Southend Echo mentioning that the two main reasons behind his departure were financial obligations not being met and differing views from those above him as to how the club should be run.

While I'd like to think that perhaps both Martin and Brady could have worked a little harder to try and keep a good working relationship between them at least until the end of the season before then going their separate ways. Due to this all taking place behind the scenes with only the bare minimum amount of information given to the fans about it, it's not clear how long exactly things have been difficult between the two men. What it does mean is that a new Chief Executive has to be found, and in an interview for BBC Essex a week ago, Ron Martin said he already had a replacement in mind, but so far no announcement has been made about any appointment in the role.

I must admit that recent events have once again led me to question some of the things that Ron Martin has done at the club. To give him some credit, he has stuck with the club through thick and thin when others may have walked away, but I feel that a lot of problems that the club have had in recent years come down to him and his decision making. Ever since becoming the clubs majority owner in 2000, Martin has always had one major goal, to get the club playing at a new stadium. But only 2 seasons ago, the club were issued a winding up order and were on the verge of going into administration due to an unpaid tax bill.

The bill was paid by the club, but it was revealed by Martin that one of the main reasons why the clubs debts were so high was because of the amount of money he had put in to trying to move the club away from their current home at Roots Hall. Now I am all for a new stadium as I too would like to see Southend United become a much bigger club than they currently are and become one of the well known names in English football, but when the future of the actual club itself is at stake then ultimately I would rather just continue playing our games at Roots Hall for the next 10 to 20 years just as long as the club survives.

Moving on to matters on the pitch, if someone who didn't follow the club looked at our current league position, I reckon that they would say that we were doing pretty well and were in with a great chance of getting promoted at the end of the season. And with only 18 games left, 2nd place is a great position to be in. However the gap between the teams in the top 3 automatic promotion spots and the play off spots is not a very big one and Southend only sit 3 points ahead of 6th placed Torquay United. At the start of the season, a lot of people predicted that we would finish in the top half of the table with an outside chance of making the play offs, but because we have been in the top 3 for most of this season, I would consider it a big disappointment if we were to finish 4th or lower.

In saying that, there is still a lot more football to be played, so who knows what position Southend and the teams around them will be in a month's time, but the only thing that will guarantee the club automatic promotion at the end of the season are consistent good results and performances and the teams around us dropping points. So as long as manager Paul Sturrock can encourage his players to give it their all in every game from now until the last game of the season, then there should be no problems in achieving automatic promotion in May.

To conclude, I would like to think that the future was a bright one for Southend United, but given the amount of ups and downs we've had in the past decade, ups being our two succesive promotions in 2005 and 2006, downs being our financial woes in 2009 and 2010, it is very hard to say what the future has in store for the club. In the end I think it comes down to matters both on and off the pitch, and as long as we are looking good on one, it should in turn reflect the other.

Only time will tell.  I'll end by answering a commonly asked question, which is “Where do you see your club in 5 years time?” Ideally, Competing in the Championship, playing in a new stadium with a good team of players, drawing in much bigger crowds, increasing club income and maintaining good financial security. Realistically, Competing in League One, playing in the same stadium with a decent team of players, drawing in slightly bigger crowds and operating at a very similar financial level to the one we currently operate at.
Andrew Underwood

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