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From the East Coast to the East End


“Oh my god, look Sophie, there is a Southend Supporter, I didn’t think they had any” came a voice sitting next to me in an internet café in Cairns on the East Coast of Australia. I was looking, as I had done daily for the last six months, at the latest transfer goings on via the website. “Yeah, I used to go to Southend a bit, my uncle used to be the chairman, Vic Jobson. Have you heard of him?” he enquired. I was into my sixth month of world travel and I had finally met a fellow Southend fan. Actually, and not surprisingly, he supported Leyton Orient.

After bungee jumping in Auckland instead of dashing to the nearest computer to tell my friends about my latest suicide mission, I dashed to the computer to find out if Constaintine was really going. And then there was the sky dive. After the jump I got to the nearest computer, scanned the photos and sent them home. Of course not. I was logging on to check the latest rumours about Cort. But I knew things were turning for the worse when I turned down a drink with a former Dutch table dancer that had amazingly spoken to ME on Bondi beach. I had far better things to do. The LDV final commentary was on in the early hours, tom foolery could wait till the next time it came around. Seven years is nothing.

So of course, when the draw for the league cup was made there could only be one outcome. Cut short my sun drenched, bikini clad infested, beer drinking life in Australia for the kappa wearing, wide boy walking, rubbish infested, apples and pears selling streets of the East End. To the people who doubted my sanity I had one answer. Even though I had seen Southend lose on my last twelve visits, even though they never score goals, even if people say “Southend? Are they non-league?”, even though I haven’t even lived in Southend for the last eight years, even though people say “so why don’t you support Bournemouth then? Isn’t that down the road from you?”, I missed watching Southend too much.

“Who are they playing then?” came the amplified voice from my amplified hearing aided gran. “West Ham” I replied. “Oh I hope they win” she added, “and take some sweets with you”. Nothing ever changes. My nan still gives me sweets, and still, knows absolutely nothing about football. Well it made me smile. She was the first person I had met in a long time that actually thought the team I was going to watch could actually win.

The rain came down, it had been the wettest August for a long time. The station at Upminster was abnormally busy, a mixture West Ham and Southend supporters waited for the six minutes past from Shoeburyness. The commuters and tourists alike were both probably thinking ‘Why are there so many people on this train’. But soon they would be educated by the chat amongst the supporters. The West Ham fans talked to the Southend fans about Glenn Roeder and Alan Pardew. The Southend fans talked to West Ham fans about how the team on paper was good, it had just made a bad start. Again.

As I took my seat in row G, the drizzle turned to downpour. I thought about the Dutch table dancer I had turned down in Sydney, well lots of times actually. But there was no time for that. The game had started, the atmosphere was back. It only took ten minutes to see my first goal.

If the West Ham players and Southend goalie had Jobserve on their shirts then the referee had Jobsworth on his, stopping the players in blue from taking quick free kicks. Of course Southend had Betterview on their shirts, if only the referee had Better view, missing that handball by Repka.

And then I realised why I support Southend. Even though we concede more goals than we score, even though we concede more goals than we score, even though we lose more games than we win, and even though every season we think we are going up, only to end up just staying up, and getting knocked out in the first round of the cup,  we still sing. Maybe badly. But we still sing
And so we huffed and puffed, but West Ham were a little too good to be bluffed. We left the ground with our heads held high.

Now it was time for the next decision. Ok, it does not involve European women or thousands of miles of flight, but it's still important. A night out in Bournemouth this Friday and a stumble home? Or maybe I should pay three times as much and sacrifice my Friday to go up north? I’ll get my coat.