PHIL Brown is expected to be unveiled as Southend’s new manager later today following yesterday’s bizarre sacking of Paul Sturrock.
The Scot was dismissed in a lengthy, poorly constructed and at times baffling statement from the chairman Ron Martin yesterday. In a unique move though, he will return to the club to take charge of the JPT final at Wembley in a fortnight, where he is expected to get an excellent reception from Blues supporters.
Brown spent six years as assistant to current west ham boss Sam Allardyce at Bolton, before taking charge of Derby, Hull City and Preston. He was dismissed as manager of the Lilywhites in December 2011 and has not been employed in a managerial role since.
Brown is a strong advocate of using sports science to anaylyse performance. He has also been involved in several controversial incidents during his managerial career to date.
All At Sea would like to take this opportunity to thank Paul Sturrock for everything he has done for the club, particularly saving the club from oblivion in his first season and some of the results and performances away from home. The bad luck the club has had with injuries this season has ultimately cost him his job. Whether Ron Martin’s decision is the correct one, only time will tell.
PHIL Brown is expected to be unveiled as Southend’s new manager later today following yesterday’s bizarre sacking of Paul Sturrock.
THE latest issue of All At Sea is brought to you with fanfares, bunting and champagne* as Southend celebrate reaching a Wembley cup final for the first time in their history.
As the team managed to get this far, defeating League One opponents despite a horrendous injury list, we have decided to pull out all the stops too, and bring you a 40-page bumper cup final special.
It will be available for the normal price of £1 and will be on sale from Saturday as the countdown begins.
Inside, we’ve included an interview with Drewe Broughton, the hero of our 2004 LDV Vans Trophy campaign, kindly donated to us by Lee Morgan.
Tony Agg remembers the heartache of coming a penalty kick away from reaching our Wembley dream almost 20 years ago.
Peter Baker gives us some insight into how Southend ended up making their only Wembley appearance, in bizarre fashion, in 1930, and what happened that day.
Piers Hewitt tells of the time he first visited Wembley – and it was a far cry from how you would have expected it to be. Peter Searles has even let all the emotion get to him and has written a poem.
There will also be an in-depth report of both legs of the Area Final so you can relive them all over again, as well as a full lowdown on how to get the best out of your day at Wembley.
As we’re all telling the players not to be distracted from league duties, we’ll be practising what we preach and there’s a full round up of recent away games, previews of games coming up plus some inevitable column inches on the controversial return of Bilel Mohsni.
Joseph Rutter makes his debut within our pages to look back at some of our best ever loan signings in the wake of Ben Reeves’ influential month at Roots Hall.
All this and plenty more is inside, and it can be yours by seeing our sellers on Saturday outside the club shop on Victoria Avenue and at the Shakespeare Drive entrance. It will also be on sale at Plymouth and Fleetwood home games, on Travelzone coaches to Rochdale, Bradford, and Wembley, and online here (where a selection of back issues are also available). You can order your copy now, and it will be sent first class as soon as the fanzine is back from the printers later this week.
SIX years of pent-up frustration, heartache and woe was released into the night sky as Southend’s fans spilled onto the pitch to celebrate victory over rivals Orient and a place at Wembley for the first time in 83 years.
Every club, apart from a select few of course, has had its hard-luck stories over the years and the likes of Stockport, Wimbledon, Luton and Chester can probably look down their noses at Blues fans in this respect. I don’t want to come over all “woe is me” here – Liverpool fans do enough of that for all of us – but there can’t be too many more who have suffered so much pain in such a short time. Relegation from the Championship was followed by the horrendous penniless slide down the League One trapdoor three years later. Club legend Steve Tilson’s sacking, the constant broken promises over a new stadium, seemingly endless winding up orders and late payment to staff and players as cash flow issues threatened to kill the club altogether. Then, Paul Sturrock’s reign and stability on the pitch followed by more heartache last year as Southend missed out on a trip to Anfield, then automatic promotion despite racking up 84 points (a total that will almost certainly win it this year) as Crawley and Swindon bought promotion, and more despair after losing in the play-offs against Crewe. And, a couple of months ago, missing out on another plum cup tie after being deservedly beaten by Brentford.
But if Sturrock has been accused of building a team of nearly men, they shrugged off that tag with heart and spirit against Orient. But it didn’t look promising early on as a patched up side of loanees, half-fit defenders and the odd first-teamers held on to their slender first-leg advantage for just eight minutes before Dean Cox’s cross was flicked on by David Mooney into the path of Shaun Batt, who guided the ball past Smith with a finish eerily similar to the one Ryan Leonard had conjured up for Southend two weeks previously. The visitors’ impressive 2,300 following went suitably potty and the rest of the 9,400 in attendance slumped in their seats, no doubt thinking “here we go again”.
Sturrock had set out with a 4-4-1-1, Ben Reeves sitting between the midfield and Britt Assombalonga, but it was clear after half an hour the approach was failing and the manager was brave enough to withdraw Alex Woodyard for Barry Corr to try and get the ball to stick in attack.
Blues created little in the opening half, but did have a chance when Assombalonga set Reeves on his way, but the loanee opted to shoot low from 20 yards rather than slip in Ryan Leonard who was better placed to his left, resulting in a comfortable save from Jamie Jones.
Orient looked comfortable and Shaun Batt was causing problems with his pace, but the return of Phillips and Barker lent a calmness to the back line that has been missing of late, and there were few other chances for the O’s, although David Mooney did send an effort onto the roof of the net.
Southend’s first half goal drought at Roots Hall also showed no sign of ending though, and at half time there was little to cheer for the home fans, who headed to the hopelessly inadequate facilities more used to dealing with crowds of 5,500 in the forlorn hope of getting a beer or a pie.
As in the first match at Brisbane Road, the opening 15 minutes of the second half was Southend’s best spell of the game. When Assombalonga was crudely scythed down by Mattieu Baudry down the left hand channel, it gave the cultured right foot of Kevan Hurst the opportunity to add to his 16 assists this season. As the ball was floated into the far post, Assombalonga got enough on the ball to knock it down to Barry Corr, who thumped a half-volley into the South Stand net off the underside of the bar. Wild celebrations followed, but with 61 minutes on the clock, there was still plenty of time to go.
Assombalonga could have given Blues a cushion from a Clohessy cross just a minute later, but his header was straight at Jones and he took a knock to the head in the process. As play swung to the other end, Shaun Batt forced a save out of Paul Smith from a tight angle.
And then came the panic. For no apparent reason, Blues committed footballing suicide by dropping deep and allowing the visitors to attack. Roots Hall got nervous very quickly, and Lee Cook began to orchestrate proceedings in midfield. The tie-equalling goal came on 72 minutes when a sloppy ball from Ben Reeves caught Sean Clohessy, already heading up the pitch on the charge, out of position. The cross from the left from Leon McSweeney found Mooney unmarked eight-yards from goal, and Paul Smith could not keep out his firm header.
Dean Cox’s fine low cross between back four and Smith was then toed goalwards by Batt, but the Millwall loanee could only watch on as his effort bounced off the top of the crossbar and into the great unwashed behind the goal.
It was probably the visitors’ big chance as they enjoyed possession around Southend’s box but were restricted to long range efforts. As both sets of players tired, penalties looked inevitable as the clock ticked down to the 90th minute. I don’t think too many in the ground had the stomach for that, so it was a good job what happened next, did.
Kevan Hurst bamboozled Baudry on the left flank before showing the presence of mind to look up and square the ball back to the penalty spot where Ben Reeves was waiting. Despite a lunging challenge from an Orient defender, Reeves got there first and, with a bizarre combination of both feet, guided the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
It all went a bit silly. The stadium literally shook with unbridled joy as the 7,000 home fans celebrated wildly. There were limbs everywhere. I personally ended up about five seats along from where I had been sitting. The board had displayed four minutes, but few had seen that as it was being displayed at the very moment the ball fell to Reeves.
Unfortunately, one fan who had perhaps had too much excitement or alcohol, or perhaps he was just a total idiot, decided to run onto the pitch and disrupt the game just as we needed to see it out. As he was escorted away, the entire ground was united in the chant of “wanker” which seemed a surprise to the miscreant, who clearly thought he would be hailed as some sort of hero. Thick as pigshit as well as excitable, then.
As a result, ref Andy Woolmer added an unbearable amount of stoppage time where Orient launched the ball forward in desperation resulting in some important interventions. After five unbearable minutes, Woolmer blew for full time and the fans spilled onto the pitch in celebration.
The party continued long into the night in the Spread and the Railway. Personally, with all the nerves, stress and excitement going back at least three days, I stayed for a glass of water and left, having to drive home to Chelmsford. Some certain other friends of this fanzine had other ideas and were happily dancing on tables and imbibing dubiously coloured spirits long into the night. The next day at work may have been a struggle for them.
But who cares. Southend United will finally be playing in a Wembley final for the first time, having missed out three times in recent years (Anglo Italian cup in the 90s, Brentford in the LDV 2001 and last year’s play-off semi). It will be an historic moment for us all and it will be nice to have the town behind its football club once again. Tinged with sadness for those who cannot be there, loyal Shrimpers like Graham Jolley, Malcolm ‘Harry’ Roberts and Martin Cranmer, all of who passed away recently and would have surely given so much to see their team at the famous stadium.
Come April 7th, about 30,000 of us will be walking down Wembley way, blue as far as the eye can see, flags waving, before watching our team come out for a national final which we have every chance of winning, despite being underdogs again. What an achievement by Paul Sturrock and his team of patched-up battlers. Savour it, as these days do not come along often.
SCOTTISH midfielder Marc Laird will remain at Southend for the next 18 months after signing permanently with the Shrimpers this morning.
Laird, 26, signed on loan from Leyton Orient in October and started 15 matches for Southend, scoring twice. His form coincided with an upturn in the team’s fortunes, seeing them shoot up from mid table to 4th place in late December.
The combative, box-to-box player joined Orient from Millwall 18 months ago but failed to hold down a place in Russell Slade’s side. The Londoners agreed to release Laird from his contract so he could join Blues on a permanent basis.
Laird will be eligible to take to the field for tomorrow’s match with Brentford at Roots Hall despite sustaining a broken tooth after being elbowed in the face by a Gillingham player on Tuesday. However, he is cup tied for the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy fixture at Oxford on Tuesday.
DESPITE this extraordinary run we seem to have found ourselves on, I must admit to a bit of trepidation when waking up on Boxing Day morning on a couple of counts. One was purely after our Boxing Day experience of last year (taking all the in-laws to their first ever Southend game and seeing it abandoned) making me expect the worst. Whilst I am used to disappointment and let downs, I like things to go smoothly when taking the wife, as was planned again this Boxing Day (the rest of her family learnt their lesson). So when it pelted it down with rain all of Christmas Day morning to the point of not being sure we could even drive into Billericay, I was not holding out much hope that Mrs Hewitt was going to get to see the Tomlin and Britt show. Fast forward 24 hours, and a quick phonecall to Dagenham and suddenly I was talking to a lady at the club who even seemed surpised that I should be suggesting the game might be off. Game. On.
Boxing Day football means no public transport and a car parking bun fight, no more so than at Dagenham – a ground that is situated in a place that, even on a bank holiday, you feel sure that come 90 minutes, you are bound to come back to your car and find a parking ticket. It was 12.15 though, and 45 minutes away from kick off. No time to muck about. The ‘chance taking the hit’ concensus was throughly justified a mere 46 minutes later. The concourse bar was buzzing, and a quick (and average) pint of Worthingtons went down the hatch. Anybody that ordered a second or third might well have regretted it. We had barely had time to find our seats and already Christmas had got better. An unsurpisingly unchanged Blues side picked up where there left off on Friday. Within a minute, Daggers’ got in a pickle out by the touchline, Tomlin got hold of the ball and just ran. If this was September, he’d have picked out a cross, and might well have failed at that. This is December though, and this is a new Gavin Tomlin. There was only one thing on his mind, and Daggers’ fans probably couldn’t believe what they were seeing when he ran goalwards and promptly smashed it into the back of the net. I hadn’t even had time to point out to the lady who Gavin Tomlin was.
We remained on the front foot, and not 15 minutes later, Assombalonga displayed ridiculous skill by bringing a ball down, playing a one-two with Laird on the edge of the box (if memory serves me correctly), got down the inside left channel and put it in the middle for Tomlin to score again. Gavin had netted as many times in front of the Daggers fans in 15 minutes as he did during his whole time there. He must have been higher than Bobby Gillespie in the 90s.
Even having seen such excellent away performances as Torquay and Wimbledon lately, I must admit, with Daggers in good form, not even I was ready for this onslaught, and to be fair to the home side, as can be very annoying, they discovered how to play only after going 2-0 down. Sam Williams started to be a bit of a handful for Cresswell, and they started to get on top of things a bit. But the combination of Laird and Mikandawire, as has been stated in the past, were proving to everyone how important keeping hold of these two really are when assessing our promotion hopes, and spent large chunks of the rest of the half protecting the back four, and anything that did slip through was dealt with brilliantly by the confident combination of Prosser and Cresswell.
We held off til half time, which was vital, and you got the feeling that if we got a third it was Goodnight Vienna. And so it proved. Some more excellent work from Tomlin on the left allowed him to hold onto the ball and pick out an inside ball to the waiting Kevan Hurst who guided the ball into the top corner from the edge of the box. It was good timing on his part, as his family happened to be sat in front of me, and despite a couple of young girls in his group prior to the goal already doing some Boxing Day sales shopping on their phones, he certainly made it a family day to remember by celebrating right in front of them.
And that, pretty much was that. This side don’t really let go of two goal leads, let alone three, and you could say it petered out, but there couldn’t be any complaints. For once, we scored when we were on top, and we stifled when we needed to stifle. And that, in my book, is what you need to do to go up, and anything else is a bonus. This run will end (though I have no idea when at the moment), and if this team responds to that defeat in the right manner, then talk of league 1 really should be happening more regularly around the Roots Hall faithful. Happy Christmas indeed.
IT’S been a barnstorming couple of months on the pitch since the last AAS hit the streets.
A 12-game unbeaten run, progress in two cups and even some alleged stadium progress – though we’ll believe that when we see it, eh?
So, the Christmas edition will have an upbeat feel to it and plenty of comment, nostalgia and humour from your resident contributors.
We look at how the Blues may have become the MK Shrimpers, give a critique of Prittlewell’s pub scene and remember some of our best foreign players.
There’s missives from our trips to
mainly triumphant away games, a smattering of analysis and guides to trips coming up.
In a wider football context, there’s an update on the safe standing issue and James Welham enjoys the delights of the country’s only “neutral section” at Craven Cottage.
All for only £1, on sale Friday from 6.45pm outside the club shop and in Shakespeare Drive.
Alternatively, click here to buy the fanzine, and previous issues, online.
CULT hero Roy McDonough returned to England from Spain earlier this season to talk about his book, Red Card Roy. All At Sea took the opportunity to catch up with him and get the inside track on his time at Blues.
You’re probably the only player revered in both north and south Essex. How does that feel?
It’s great. People call you a legend and the word sometimes is used quite cheaply. People say ‘you’re a Southend United and Colchester United legend’ which, as a working player is a great compliment.
I had great years at Southend, but I will be remembered most in Essex for taking Colchester to Wembley and out of the Vauxhall Conference so as a player manager, that’s also a big thing for me. But I’ve got great memories of both clubs and if they want to call me a legend, feel free.
What’s your best memory of your time at Southend? We had some big games. We had some promotions but, for me, obviously Gascoigne, Lineker and the Tottenham game. I pulled my party piece and got sent off with three minutes to go for good measure. I terrorised the back four that night. Terry Venables said to the reserve coach, “crikey, your mate is a handful isn’t he?”. Which was a compliment from Mr Venables.
That was a great night and we actually won the game. I think I won the crowd over, which was a big thing for me because there were people who didn’t particularly like me.
At Southend, I met many great players and great people. Bobby Moore – unbelievable. Vic Jobson kept the club afloat for ten years and did a magnificent job. I met some great lads and great players. That’s my fondest memory, because I played for some clubs I didn’t give a monkey’s for.
Who were the biggest drinkers at Roots Hall back in your day? Big drinkers were David Martin – Paul Roberts used to try and hang in there and would struggle. Jim Stannard was a big drinker, our drinking squad was shocking but the team we had with the Dave Martins, the Paul Clarks, myself, Crownie (David Crown), was great.
Crownie was great fun, he’d try and stick in there with you but he’d have eight or nine pints and start getting giggly, which was great for us because we could have a laugh at his expense. He also tried to stay with the big boys.
Me and Dave Martin were two of the big drinkers, 20 pints plus. (reference to the new David Martin); Is there another one now? Nah, there’s only one Davey Martin, that’s for sure.
Is it true you were lined up to be the face of Red Card energy drink but it fell through? Yes. Red Card was a Britvic drink and we launched it at Chelmsford where I was manager at the time. Wayne Hemmingway, I had photos with him in all the national papers and Chelmsford went from claret to red for the first time ever.
But that didn’t last and it went pear-shaped. The unfortunate thing was, it went up on all billboards in Essex and London, but on the day of the photoshoot, I was working away, which was a bit of a shame.
Did any managers try and tame you? Webby did, twice he put me on the transfer list. He once threatened me in the office. Because me and Dave Webb for three years didn’t see eye to eye. The sole reason being I met him at Bournemouth but signed for Chelsea. And he held a grudge. I didn’t shake hands on the deal to go to Bournemouth. I was out of contract at Walsall, but it was a no brainer for a 21-year-old kid. Chelsea or Bournemouth? I went to Chelsea.
But he held that grudge when he came here as a manager, for a couple of years. We used to fight like cat and dog on the training ground. Players being players, in five-a-sides, when Dave Webb was near me, would purposely roll balls short of me so Webby could boot me, cos they wanted me to beat him up. And to be fair it would have been a good fight, I think.
But it never got that far, apart from when I split his eye. One Friday morning, with an elbow. I think he had three or four stitches. It was the last 20 minutes of the five-a-side. I was the centre forward of the first team, for his team the next day – the only one in the building who could do the job I did – and he was coming at me kung-fu style. He lost the plot. But I was clever enough and smart enough to just keep out of his way. That could have got bloody, quite easily.
But in the end Dave Webb let me go to Colchester, and there was mutual respect I think. Because he knew when I played I did my best.
He made me captain at Burnley once. I got sent off after 19 minutes, what a bummer. I was dead chuffed to be made captain of SUFC up at Burnley, playing centre half. That one kippered me. It was the worst sending off of my life. I could have trod all over the bloke’s (Roger Eli) head and I purposefully avoided his head by about an inch. I just stamped, though, to show I could have smashed his face in, and he rolled round so I trod on his face. I wish I had have done. So I got a red card and that was my one and only time as a captain.
Do you keep an eye out for Southend’s results? Always. You know the old teleprinter – when I’ve come off the beach, it’s about 40 degrees, I sit there with a can of beer watching all the results come through. I look out for SUFC, Colchester – I still check Birmingham, because that was my first club – and then the last one is Manchester United.
Did you support Birmingham, growing up? Not really. I was at Aston Villa at a kid and obviously as a schoolboy, that was where my career was going to start so I was a bit of a Villa fan I suppose. But when you play for a club your allegiances change. You’ve got the shirt, you’re now a professional footballer at that club, which is a great position to be in, so you forget about supporting a club.
People say your management career didn’t work out because you were too confrontational, what would you say to that? Bit harsh! You say confrontational but I called a spade a spade. Being a player manager, we weren’t a massive club at Colchester. We got out of the Conference, got back into the Football League and were very close to the playoffs. Bearing in mind I couldn’t play in eight games because I got sent off twice – I got a letter from the board of directors saying if it happens again, they’d have to sack me. So I missed eight games and I’m telling you, if I’d have played four of them games we’d have got the points to get in the playoff, when I had half a squad from the Conference.
After games I’d go to the boardroom because you were expected to. I’d have half a lager, order a bottle of K cider – the strongest drink possible in front of the directors and go and drink with my players because they were my team – they were the people supporting me.
At Colchester, the board of directors gave me no support. They were f**king useless. So I battled against that. Why do you want to stand in a boardroom of directors? What you do is, if you’re clever, you let on “I’m a player manager, I’ve not got any help, I’ve a part-time assistant, I’m running the club on my own, coaching on my own, playing as well.” And people go, “Blimey, he must be doing a good job.” So when I got the sack then maybe someone else would think “let’s give him a go.”
The one thing they got from me was the truth. I was honest. You’d like to think that would stand you in good stead, but it doesn’t.
You’re originally from the Midlands, but you spent most of your career in Essex. Why was that?
I left home to go to Chelsea, it was a massive wrench for me, but of course you couldn’t turn down a move there when you’re out of contract at Walsall and fighting with the manager.
That didn’t work out, and it was then the start of the merry-go-round. Colchester, Southend, Exeter, Cambridge, Southend, Colchester. I enjoyed it in Essex, I like it there.
What do you make of the Only Way Is Essex? I don’t mind a couple of the girls, to be fair. I’d give them a few minutes of my time. It’s nonsense though and I personally don’t think it does Essex a lot of favours. If they did it a bit more tongue in cheek, maybe, but I think they started it for a giggle and now they’ve started to take themselves seriously. That’s the worst thing you can do.
What would you change about football? The money’s crippled it at the top level. Our Premier League is naïve. English fans demand action. Let’s get the ball into the box, let’s see a header at goal or a flying volley at goal. Let’s make the keeper make a save, let’s learn to defend corners and set-pieces because we always launch it into the box. But if you go to the top level – the Spanish level – it’s unbelievable. They play football without a striker. That is off another planet for me. That is the model. It’s similar to a Man Utd system – they pass the ball well, Man Utd – but in Spain, they’ve taken it to another level. Everyone should work towards that.
Our fans demand action, but you give the ball to Spain, you’ll not see it for ten minutes. They don’t give the frigging thing away. So we’ll lump into the box from 70 yards hoping someone wins a header, someone gets on the end of it. Or maybe, Pique gets it, dribbles it past for, rolls it to Iniesta who goes to Xavi, goes to David Villa, and all of a sudden, you haven’t seen the ball for ten minutes.
Who’s the hardest player you ever played with or against? With, certainly over my career, David Martin. I call them warriors. Roy Keane on his day, Graeme Souness. They were warriors. Against, Tony Adams and Steve Bruce were no nonsense, proper centre halves. They never said a word, you could headbutt them, tread on them, you could set fire to them probably and they still would never say a word because they were there to win the next ball. But David Martin, honestly, was legendary. Tough as old boots. I smashed Tony Adams right on the bugle. It hurt my arm, that’s how much I caught him. He never said a word. Not a dickie bird. He got me back, and we laughed about it afterwards because he launched me onto the track. So I went, “fair play, you can have that one back”.
Interview by Jamie ForsythRoy McDonough’s autobiography, Red Card Roy, is available now in all good bookshops.