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Aug 9, 2010

The transfer windows favour the Premiership and larger clubs who can target players within this condensed period of opportunity and do not have the same financial constraints as might befall the smaller clubs. However at least for the time being (and I think it will ultimately not continue) we have a loan system to soften the frenetic activity outside these periods and the January window in particular.
By this stage in the season every Club is reviewing their prospects with some seeking to strengthen their sides whilst others are capitalising through the sale of players. At the start of the season Steve Tilson commenced with four strikers whom he had informed in pre-season that the most successful in the friendly games would “get the nod”.
Matt Harold scored the most goals and therefore he became first choice. Unfortunately his success in pre-season did not translate to the real thing. It was obvious early on that the lack of success was causing difficulties for if the forwards are not able to retain the ball there is an inevitable pressure on the defence and by the law of averages something will give.
We retained the services of Leon Clarke, on loan from Sheffield, whose reputation in the industry has not been great with many people advocating that we should not “entertain” him. However for the most part Leon whilst perhaps being solitary was well behaved and was successful in scoring goals and creating opportunities up until his last three or four performances.
It is difficult to pinpoint what went wrong for we had agreed terms with Sheffield Wednesday to crystallise Leon’s permanent transfer on 1st January 2008 and had settled his personal terms very early on during his loan spell. Later in the period his agent advised us there was money owed to him from Sheffield Wednesday (some £30,000) which, in reality, was a compensatory payment for Leon cancelling his contract with the club should he join us and as such Sheffield Wednesday refused to pay it.
To oil the wheels I agreed to meet 50% of the ”fee” but in the event Leon’s focus on the field evaporated and we began to see a different side to his character which concerned us. We may have overlooked that had the financial situation resolved itself but in the event, at very short notice, Leon returned to Sheffield Wednesday on the afternoon of 30th December 2007 and the rest is history.
With hindsight whilst it may have worked out I have a sixth sense that the outcome was to the Club’s benefit. As I have said previously, unless a player is totally committed to Southend United Football Club I do not want them and nor does Steve Tilson.
We have benefited greatly over the last three or four years from an admirable team spirit and that is something we are determined to maintain. When the chips are down it is that will to win that saves the day.
Perhaps as a consequence of this relatively unsettled period, the success on the pitch over the Christmas period was abysmal albeit not entirely deserved.
In many ways I feel that our season was renewed afresh after the Bristol Rovers defeat although we were to be frustrated in once again not being able to secure the strikers that we had targeted. At this time we needed at least two, perhaps even three. I was able to agree terms with Plymouth to acquire Rory Fallon but who, it transpired, was not prepared to move from the other side of the country and drop a division irrespective of us agreeing to meet his current wage. I do not know if it is entirely true but somebody told me that it was reported in the Plymouth press that Rory is very religious and God had told him to remain at Plymouth. I guess we may therefore have needed divine intervention!
That was disappointing but what was incredibly sad was the circumstances surrounding James Walker. Having agreed terms with Charlton, and knowing how excited James was at joining Southend, we were thwarted by the discovery of a heart abnormality. This, as has been reported, came as no great surprise to James for it later transpired he had been monitored for a potential problem from an early age. We will remain in touch with his agent and Charlton to see how his condition manifests itself over the next three months and subject to specialist cardiological advice James may be able to resume his football career and hopefully with us. Whatever the position we wish James Walker and his family well.
SO it was back to the drawing board to consider other targets but not necessarily further down our pecking order, merely who would be available within reasonable budgets and fit the character requirements.
As all our supporters will now know following an extremely frenetic period we have been able to secure, in our view, a number of quality players to reinforce the squad both up front and elsewhere to hopefully propel us into the play off positions from which to advance. During this period the team spirit seems to have resurfaced which was wonderful to see during Tuesday’s match against Leeds United.
This attitude, both on and off the pitch, is so fundamental. If there are any individuals who do not contribute to that mindset, I and the team’s Manager would wish to cut them out as soon as possible before the “disease” spreads.
I truly feel we are on the right track but our dealings within the transfer market are not over. There are still one or two areas that we wish to underpin and negotiations with a couple of players will continue over the next week or two. Whilst (if they materialise) these will have to be loan signings in the first instance each of them would be with a view to a permanent transfer in the summer.
It was disappointing for me that negotiations with two clubs were agreed only for us, one more time, to be frustrated by the players’ not coming to the table in time to crystallise the arrangements by midnight yesterday. I, along with Steve Tilson, Paul Brush and other members of Club staff were still working on one of those transactions until 11.20pm last night but were unable to push it over the line.
This was not for financial reasons for a substantial bid had been accepted by the selling club earlier in the day but the player wished to have more time to consider his future. Perhaps the potential of a move was sprung on him at too late an hour. I can empathise with that but hopefully, as I say, we may be able to resurrect those negotiations when the loan window reopens in seven days.
However, I think we can be pleased with our foray into the transfer market with the only real downside being the loss of Stevie Hammell who I and Steve Tilson really wanted to remain a Southend player but whose family pressures and ties in Scotland coupled with interest from his former club Motherwell were just too great for him to resist.
I telephoned Stevie last night to wish him well and to say how disappointed we were as a Club to lose him for he is a tremendous young man both on the pitch and off. Nevertheless we all understand how important it is to have a settled home life which I am sure will now be the case for Stevie and I hope he continues to enjoy football back in his home town.
For our part, we can look forward to welcoming a number of new faces in the squad starting tomorrow against Leyton Orient which is a massive clash and one that is so important for us to win to maintain the recent rebirth of the Team’s confidence and continued upward spiral of success.
I hope you all enjoy the weekend.
Up the Blues!

Ronald Martin