Hurst has been a revelation in a 4-3-3 system under Phil Brown, making his mark as the top scorer at the club with 11 strikes to date.
Hurst joined Southend in 2012 and was a key member of the side that made it to the Wembley final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last season. His existing contract was due to expire in the summer.
FRIDAY night football is a bone of contention at Roots Hall.
Any time there’s a Friday kick off, or even when a match is moved to Friday, message boards and Twitter are full of fans debating the merits of the end of the week fixture.
Many fans, working in London say it makes it more difficult for them to get to the game. Many fans unable to get to games on a Saturday see it as a chance
to get down to the Hall. But is there any difference in the attendances? Is it worthwhile for Southend to keep scheduling games on a Friday night? I decided to look at the attendances of the games to find out.
Using the excellent Southend United Database (sufcdb.co.uk), I looked at all the seasons of the Ron Martin era, comparing attendances of Friday night games and games on the traditional Saturday. I looked at League games only, excluding games on Good Friday as, given that it’s a Bank Holiday, there are more people able to get to games and this could skew the numbers. I included all home games this season up to Fleetwood. The basic findings are:
Since the start of the 2001/02 Season, Southend have played 215 games on a Friday night or a Saturday. Of these, 17.7 per cent (38 in total) were on a Friday night. This is very nearly two whole seasons of Friday night home games.
If you take the average attendance of Saturday games over that period, an average of 6,328 have watched Southend on a Saturday, compared to an average of 6,857 on a Friday night. So on average, over 500 more people go to Friday night games.
Only one season has not featured a Friday night league game, the 2007/2008 season.
Of the 12 seasons that have featured Friday night games, the average attendance of games on a Friday night has been higher than the average attendance of Saturday games six times.
However for three of those seasons, there was just one Friday night game.
The seasons with the most Friday night games were the 2009/10 season, with seven games, and the 2004/2005 season, with six games. In both of these seasons, the average attendance for Friday night games was higher than the average on Saturdays. And by some margin too, by 1,265 in 2009/10, and 979 in 2004/2005.
The season with the biggest margin for a greater Saturday average attendance than a Friday night attendance is currently this season, with 1,061 more on average attending on a Saturday (article published in November). However with only six home games played on a Saturday or Friday night so far, it might be wise to see how the season progresses attendance-wise before drawing any strong conclusions about this year. The biggest margin for a greater Saturday average attendance is 2001/2002, when 818 more saw the Saturday games on average.
Scunthorpe United fans must expect all their fans to either drive long distances or have a large number of supporters in London. Of the six times they’ve played at Roots Hall since 2001/2002, they’ve played on a Friday night four times, including for three seasons in a row. Orient have the second highest number of visits on a Friday night, with three.
Of course the main problem with the attendance stats is season ticket holders. I don’t know if Southend count their attendance as actual people through the turnstiles, or number of tickets actually sold for the game. A season ticket holder has of course bought tickets for every game, so may be counted as attending regardless of whether they are there or not.
So are Friday night games the way forward? It seems difficult to tell. The last three full seasons have seen higher Saturday average attendances
twice, and the time that the Friday night average attendance was higher, this was by the smallest margin of any season I’ve looked at where Friday night had a higher average, just 214 more. It may be that the thrill of Friday night under the floodlights is wearing off. Which for me would be a shame.
THE 2002/03 season can be grouped in with many in the late 1990s and early 2000s, before the arrival of Steve Tilson, as utterly forgettable. Fortunately I was away at university in Stoke for much of it, although I remember still being as excited at going to Roots Hall to watch the likes of Barrington Belgrave and Steven Clark as I always was, which is a bit concerning.
My university always used to have a very long Christmas break, so despite our home clash with Hull coming in early February, I was still back in Essex and it was to be my last match before returning to Staffordshire. I do remember sitting in the East Stand with my mate and regular travelling companion Si, whose recent marriage and mortgage keep him away from Roots Hall more often than not these days.
Blues, under the stewardship of Rob Newman, were utterly mid-table at the time and our opponents had been tipped for great things at the start of the season – I remember travelling to the opening game at Boothferry Park when 10,000 fans had been in attendance only for Tes Bramble to score a deflected late equaliser to deflate all but the 400 or so joyous souls at the old “supermarket end”. However, the Tigers had failed to live up to their early-season hype, despite replacing the underachieving Jan Molby with Peter Taylor and moving into the KC Stadium over Christmas.
After 22 minutes, one of the leading lights of that Southend side, Jay Smith, fired a terrific shot into the top corner to give us the lead. Mark Rawle added a second goal on 41 minutes, and on the stroke of half time loanee Danny Marney was felled in the box, and Smith again stepped up in front of the travelling Tigers to rub salt into the wound.
The records show that Tes Bramble was sent off for us in first-half stoppage time. My memory is of him getting into a tangle with Damien Delaney, although that could well not be the case. A trawl through Youtube has failed to yield anything from this fixture, although you can “enjoy” clips of Hull winning at Roots Hall in successive seasons in the late 1990s – both thoroughly miserable occasions as I remember.
Despite being down to 10 men and their opponents featuring the likes of Jamie Forrester, Stuart Elliot and Ryan Williams in their line-up, Southend saw the game out comfortably and it is one of the more memorable results from this most mediocre of seasons. Hull failed to get out of the bottom division on this occasion, but the following season they finally succeeded, finishing second and waving goodbye to the fourth division for the last time. It seems surreal to see them so far ahead of us in the pyramid – indeed the sides were to meet again in the Championship in 2006/2007 – but they were a side we rarely seemed to beat at home or away in those bottom tier days, despite us often finishing higher in the table.
The Phil Brown factor and Hull’s lofty status make this a tasty one for the media this weekend, but back in 2002/03, the only people that really gave a shit about this fixture were the hardy 4,500 or so inside Roots Hall.
SOUTHEND are hoping to complete the loan signing of Burnley’s right-back Luke O’Neill in time for tomorrow’s crunch League Two promotion clash with Chesterfield.
The 22-year-old has already spent some time on loan at York City this season and played at Roots Hall in the Minstermen’s 2-1 defeat in late November. He was recalled by the Clarets earlier this month to provide cover for injuries.
O’Neill came through the Leicester academy before joining Mansfield on a free transfer in 2011. His form for the Stags persuaded Burnley to buy him for an undisclosed fee in 2012, but first-team opportunities with the Championship club have proved limited.
A six-footer who hails from Berkshire, O’Neill has also spent time at Tranmere and Kettering Town during his career so far.
PROBABLY the one away game that actually inspired some excitement ahead of the League Two fixtures being released, and true to form, the computer shoehorned it in on a Tuesday night in November.
If you are planning to defy the powers-that-be and head down to Hampshire, you will be rewarded with a visit to one of the most atmospheric grounds in the country.
Fratton Park is in the south east of Portsmouth, close to Fratton station but about a 25 minute walk from the city centre.
It actually is possible to get there and back by train, but you might have to spend the last five minutes of the match sprinting back through the streets of Portsmouth. If you’re planning to get back to Essex, the last train you can get is the 2203 from Fratton, from which you change at Eastleigh and get back into Waterloo at 0009, leaving you with a nervy jaunt round the Underground to get back to Fenchurch Street or Liverpool Street before your last train home departs.
You might want to let the TZ coaches take the strain (info later in the issue) or drive down. Parking is mostly in the terraced streets around the ground and is plentiful.
As for pubs, the closest one to the ground which is away fan-friendly is The Brewers Arms on Milton Road, a five-minute stroll from the away end. However, the Milton Arms next door is apparently best avoided. The Good Companion pub on Eastern Road is also recommended. The city centre has a few decent outlets, and a Wetherspoon next to Portsmouth and Southsea station.
Ticket prices for this battle are £20 in all areas of the ground. Southend fans will be behind one goal in the Milton End, which now has a roof. Plenty of room for us, with about 2,000 seats normally allocated.
Our last visit to Fratton Park was in our last-but-one spell in the Championship back in August 1996, where Lee Russell bagged a winning goal for the hosts, who had the late Aaron Flahavan in goal and Lee Bradbury on their bench.
THOSE who experienced that miserable, sodden afternoon on an open terrace watching Southend lose 3-0 to Exeter last January probably won’t be in too much of a hurry to make the mammoth journey to Devon less than a year later.
However, Exeter is a decent city with plenty to see and some stunning beaches and countryside nearby, so why not make a weekend of it? Or at least go to some cracking pubs to numb the pain.
If you haven’t bought your train tickets by now, you’ve probably missed out on the cheapest deals and will probably pay a premium. The train will get you into Exeter St Davids, which is a 20-minute walk from St James’ Park but you do get to pass some good boozers on the way, including the AAS tavern of choice last year, The Great Western Hotel, right opposite the station and with a plethora of ales on tap.
Nearer the ground, the Bowling Green pub on Blackboy Road is a good option, as are The Wells Tavern and The Victoria, on Victoria Road behind the grandstand of St James’ Park.
Southend fans are likely once again to be mostly housed on that odd little open terrace behind one goal. Seems hardly fair to have to stare at the home fans’ magnificent covered affair at the other end for 90 minutes, but that’s the lot of the away fan I suppose.
Ticket prices are £17. If the weather is pants like last season, a seat in the grandstand will set you back £21.
Due to high train and petrol prices, it is likely to be worth your while to seek out coach travel from TravelZone or the Shrimpers Trust if you want to do this one without having to remortgage your house.
BRITISH football fandom used to lead the way back in the 60s, 70s and 80s. It was not malways for the best, but European fan groups always used to look on admirably and try and imitate English fans. Now, it is the other way round, and one of the irritating side effects of this is the recent fashion for “pyro”, or people using flares and smoke bombs at grounds.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I dislike the heavily sanitised atmosphere of the modern football arena as much as the next man. I even got told off recently for calling Fleetwood’s goalkeeper “shit”, which quite frankly is ridiculous as, not only was it factually correct, I was in the South Upper, not the family stand and quite frankly it should be our duty to make away team’s players feel as uncomfortable as possible when we are blessed enough to be so close to the action.
However, I draw the line at this fashion for throwing smoke bombs onto the pitch and ensuring you can’t see the next ten minutes of the match. What exactly are people gaining from it? I’ve seen it happen twice at Roots Hall this season, Yeovil fans and Dagenham fans the culprits, and I rank both occasions as being amongst the most tin-pot things I have ever seen at a football match. I can see how it looks good when seething massed ranks of fans set off flares while deafening everyone around with vociferous singing, but when it’s seven people with replica shirts over their jumpers letting them off between gaping gaps in the stand, it is a tragic sight. It’s the football equivalent of Robin Thicke trying to defy the fact he looks like a geography teacher and look cool in a video full of extremely attractive women. It doesn’t belong there. Simple as that.
Aside from the lack of credibility, and without wanting to come across all health and safety executive here, it’s not a particularly good idea to let off these things off around large groups of people. Spurs fans lobbed one at a linesman the other week and although secretly I imagine most people found it quite funny when it smacked him on the back of the neck, they wouldn’t be laughing if they were deducted points for it. I know the FA doesn’t have the balls to do that to a big club, but lower down the leagues they wouldn’t think twice about it.
So please, if any Southend supporters are thinking about trying the same thing at a far-flung ground this season, please don’t. It makes all of us look like twats, and having paid far too much money to travel to the game, gain admittance, and drink enough booze to make watching League Two football seem palatable, most of us would actually quite like to be able to see the game we’ve paid to watch rather than peer through a haze.
This article appears in Issue 45 of All At Sea. To buy your copy online, head to our webstore at http://allatseafanzine.angelfire.com where you can pay your £1 + postage easily with Paypal. We send all fanzines out first class.