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Ayrshire Blue

The Custard Splat
Jan 31, 2008
I was asked to write a review for college about a subject that inspired me, I didn't necessarily have to talk about how it inspired me but I just had to compile a 2000 word essay. So I chose to do a season review.

Well here we are at the end of another season, although in the end we can feel slightly aggrieved that we had nothing to play for in the final two games this season has been another that has left as feeling all the emotions that we have become accustom to as a Southend United fan, from the jubilation of a last minute winner to the freezing December nights wondering why you’re here watching it.

After the disappointment of the Doncaster play off defeat the re building process was in full swing. Goalkeeper Steve Collis, the versatile Lewis Hunt, Left back Che Wilson, Winger Tommy Black and Club captain and loyal servant for 10 years Kevin Maher were all released.

Out of contract duo Mark Gower opted to join newly promoted Championship side Swansea City while Goalkeeper and fan favourite Darryl Flahavan rejected Southend’s offer of a one year extension to sign a 3 year contract with Crystal Palace.

Strikers Charlie MacDonald, Matt Harrold and Richie Foran were transfer listed. They were later joined on the list by Gary Hooper despite signing a new contract before he was loaned out to Hereford United were he scored 11 goals in 19 games and helped The Bulls gain promotion from League 2.

MacDonald was sold to League 2 side Brentford with just one league goal in 26 games for The Blues. Harrold would be joining MacDonald in League 2 when he signed a 2 year contract with Wycombe Wanderers for an undisclosed fee.

Scunthorpe United paid £125,000 for Gary Hooper, that fee could eventually rise to £175,000. Darlington had a bid for Richie Foran turned down after they couldn’t match Southend’s evaluation of the striker, The Irishman did later join The Quakers on loan.

Simon Francis, Peter Clarke and player of the season and top goal scorer Nicky Bailey were also transfer listed to the shock of every Southend fan after it was revealed they had failed to agree new contracts with the club.

Right Back Francis later signed a new 3 year contract and stated that he had never wanted to leave Southend. Clarke remained on the list and there was reported interest from several Championship clubs for Nicky Bailey.
When Bailey had heard there was an interest from Charlton Athletic he spoke of his desire to leave Roots Hall and that it would be a ‘dream move’ for him the play for The Addicks.

Bailey started Southend’s first game of the season against Peterborough United a game that The Blues won 1-0 but unfortunately Ron Martin had reluctantly accepted Charlton’s offer for the midfielder and Bailey moved to the Valley for an undisclosed fee.

Coming through the entrance door at Roots Hall was Goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall, the 30 year old signing a 3 year deal after leaving Yeovil Town. American ‘keeper Ian Joyce signed a one year contract after being released by Watford.

Anthony Grant and James Walker signed permanent deals at Southend after being on loan from Chelsea and Charlton respectively.

Osei Sankofa also joined from Charlton to push Simon Francis for the right back birth. 39 year old Striker Paul Furlong signed a one year deal. Bristol City winger Kevin Betsy joined on a 2 year contract and Ipswich left back Dan Harding signed on loan until January.

Manager Steve Tilson pulled off a massive coup with the signing of Crystal Palace legend and former Scotland international Dougie Freedman who signed a 2 year deal on deadline day after being told he was surplus to requirements at Selhurst Park.

Southend kicked off their League one season at home to a newly promoted Peterborough side who were one of the teams who were tipped to do the same this season. It was a game of few chances, in the 76th minute Peter Clarke reacted first to score the only goal of the game and his first at Roots Hall. After the game in an interview Clarke said he won’t discuss a new contract until the end of the season as he wanted to concentrate fully on his football.

Southend were knocked out of the League Cup in the first round after losing 1-0 to Cheltenham in extra time. Alex Revell scored his first goal for the club in a 1-1 draw against Millwall at the New Den. Southend suffered their first league defeat at the hands of Brighton who won 2-0 in a game where Franck Moussa was shown an extremely harsh red card. Southend ended the month of August with a heavy 5-2 defeat away at Walsall.

Southend had signed Chelsea youngster Lee Sawyer on loan for 3 months and he grabbed his first goals for the club in the JPT first round against Leyton Orient, Sawyers goals could not prevent Southend slipping to a 4-2 defeat. Dougie Freedman scored a cracker from 25 yards on his debut but Southend again slipped to defeat this time away to Carlisle United. Southend returned to winning ways at home to Hereford when a single Lee Barnard strike was enough to see Southend claim the points, Steve Mildenhall suffered an ankle injury after blocking a shot but as Steve Tilson hadn’t named a ‘keeper on the bench Mildenhall played through the pain for the final few minutes. It was later revealed that he had suffered ankle ligament damage and would be out for around 6-8 weeks.

Ian Joyce made his Football League debut in a 4-3 thriller against Crewe; The American could do nothing about the 3 goals Crewe scored. Dougie Freedman scored twice but it was Anthony Grant who came off the bench to finally swing the game in Southend’s favour with the winner just two minutes from time.

Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici signed a one month loan deal with The Blues and made his debut against Leyton Orient, goals from Lee Barnard, Lee Sawyer and Dougie Freedman gave Southend a 3-0 win. In September Southend had climbed from 19th in the table to 8th.

Southend picked up all 3 points at Huish Park thanks to goals from Lee Barnard and Reading loanee Hal Robson-Kanu. Barnard scored again the following week in a 1-1 draw with Stockport. French striker Francis Laurent came off the bench to score the winner in Southend’s 2-1 win against Swindon Town.

Southend travelled to Scunthorpe United which saw the return of the yellow away kit after an 8 year absence, the kit also saw the return of the ‘Yellows’ chant in the stands. Adam Barrett was the first player to score in the kit but it wasn’t enough as Scunthorpe were awarded a very dubious penalty and both sides had to settle for a share of the spoils.

Southend slipped to defeat away to Bristol Rovers but bounced back 3 days later with victory over Leeds United thanks to a brilliant free kick from Dan Harding against his former employers.

November saw the return of the Essex Derby to Roots Hall, Peter Clarke and Francis Laurent had put Southend into a comfortable position but The U’s fought back to lead 3-2, with the last kick of the game Portsmouth loanee Jean Francois Christophe scored a dramatic late equaliser.

Christophe was at it again in the FA cup against AFC Telford to spare Southend’s blushes with a goal in the 92nd minute to level the game at 2-2 to earn a replay. Southend won the replay 2-0. Oldham were the next visitors to The Hall which also saw Kevin Maher make his return with his new side and received a standing ovation before kick off. Southend ended the month of November with an FA Cup tie with League 2 side Luton Town. West Ham youngster Junior Stanislas signed on loan the day before and was the star of the show after his 2 goals contributed to a 3-1 win.

That result against Luton set up a mouth watering tie against Premier League giants Chelsea in the FA Cup 3rd round. Before that massive game Southend still had five games to play but only picked up one win in those five that came on Boxing Day against Northampton Town with a Junior Stanislas 93rd minute free kick.

Southend travelled to Stamford Bridge on the 3rd January 2009, The Blues fell behind to a Salomon Kalou header after half an hour but nothing was going to spoil Southend’s day as The Blue Voice sang their hearts out for the entire game, In the 91st minute Peter Clarke sent the Southend fans into dream land when he headed in an equaliser to force a replay. The replay was scheduled for the 14th of January but nearly didn’t take place due to fog meaning poor visibility, the game did eventually go ahead and Southend fans were dreaming once again when Southend boy Adam Barrett headed in Junior Stanislas’ corner. Goals from Ballack, Kalou, Anelka and Lampard meant that Southend eventually lost 4-1 but could leave the field with their heads held high after putting in a very brave performance against one of the richest clubs in the world.

In the league was where it really mattered for Southend and in the months of December and January The Blues had picked up just two wins.

The month of February saw Southend’s change in fortunes, Striker Theo Robinson and Central defender Dorian Dervite had joined on loan for the remainder of the season from Watford and Spurs respectively.

Kevin Betsy came of the bench to snatch a last minute winner in a 2-1 win against Tranmere and despite a disappointing defeat at home to relegation threatened Crewe Southend bounced back to win 1-0 away at fierce local rivals Colchester United, Franck Moussa scored the only goal of the game in the 14th minute.

Wins against promotion pushing duo Scunthorpe and Peterborough soon followed with the latter seeing one of the best pieces of individual skill from a Southend player in many a year. Jean Francois Christophe’s superb overhead kick gave Southend the 3 points at London Road.

February saw Southend rise from 13th in the table to 8th.

March began with a disappointing home defeat to Millwall but The Blues bounced back with 3 wins on the spin against Walsall, Brighton and Hereford. Southend suffered defeat away to Swindon but again dusted themselves down to win 3-0 against Carlisle with goals from Clarke, Scannell & McCormack. Then a week later recorded another victory, this time against Hartlepool, goals from Barnard, Moussa and Robinson earned Southend a 3-2 win and the play offs weren’t out of reach just yet.

A Lee Barnard penalty was enough to give Southend the win away to Huddersfield but MK Dons all but ended The Blues play off dream with a 2-0 win at Roots Hall on Good Friday, The Shrimpers travelled to Northampton on Bank Holiday Monday to secure a 3-2 win thanks to goals from Christophe, Robinson & Barnard. The following Saturday The Blues were unable to spoil Leicester City’s promotion party as The Foxes were 2-0 winners at Roots Hall and secured the League One title in the process.

Southend’s final away game of the season was at Boundary Park to face Oldham who were sitting 10th in the table; Kevin Maher was once again given a good reception by the away fans. Lee Barnard’s 11th goal of the season was enough to secure a point for the visitors. The game was far from a classic but the Southend fans were going to have a party even though there was nothing left to play for in the season, they were there in their fancy dress, dancing around the stands and earned praise from the Oldham fans in the process. Boss Steve Tilson admitted after the game that he was watching the fans for longer periods of the game in the second half.

Southend ended their 2008/09 campaign at home to already relegated Cheltenham Town. Second half goals from Adam Barrett and Jean Francois Christophe meant that Southend finished the season with a win and maintained 8th spot in the table.

Peter Clarke was awarded the clubs Player of the Season and every Southend fan will be desperate for him to sign a new contract over the summer with his current deal now expired.

Clarke was also awarded with ‘The Shrimpers Trust’ player of the season award while Christophe was presented with the goal of the season award for that bicycle kick against Peterborough.

A poor Christmas period proved once again to be the turning point in Southend’s season and it was no coincidence that since the signing of Dorian Dervite that Southend had gone from looking at a relegation battle to the verge of the play offs.

Southend will have five more local away games next season with Norwich, Southampton and Charlton being relegated from The Championship and Brentford and Wycombe Wanderers gaining promotion from League 2.

Hopefully with a few new signings during the summer we can make a real push for promotion next season and Southend can earn a place in The Championship.

The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Blue & White.
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