• Welcome to the ShrimperZone forums.
    You are currently viewing our boards as a guest which only gives you limited access.

    Existing Users:.
    Please log-in using your existing username and password. If you have any problems, please see below.

    New Users:
    Join our free community now and gain access to post topics, communicate privately with other members, respond to polls, upload content and access many other special features. Registration is fast, simple and free. Click here to join.

    Fans from other clubs
    We welcome and appreciate supporters from other clubs who wish to engage in sensible discussion. Please feel free to join as above but understand that this is a moderated site and those who cannot play nicely will be quickly removed.

    Assistance Required
    For help with the registration process or accessing your account, please send a note using the Contact us link in the footer, please include your account name. We can then provide you with a new password and verification to get you on the site.

Xàbia Shrimper

Spanish Shrimpers
Oct 24, 2003
Xàbia, España
“It was only four years ago that this club was losing £2.3m a season,” Ron Martin enthused as he published the accounts for the financial year ending July 2002 which showed that Southend United has lost “just” £707,665, the fourth year in succession that the club had reduced its losses. It was a far cry from the financial turmoil of the late 90s; there was indeed light at the very distant end of the tunnel and it seemed that the club was moving in the right direction towards it. However there was still no sign of a new stadium, a development that, it was claimed, would breath new life into Southend United. Despite all the good news on the financial front, the Shrimpers were still a long way from a secure future.

Just before Christmas 2002, Southend United moved to allay growing fears that the club was about to be made homeless. With the lease on Roots Hall expiring in March 2003, less than four months time, an official statement announced that the owners had reached an agreement with Lansbury Development, the company that had owned much of the Fossetts Farm site, which would allow the club to remain at their spiritual home for another three years and also allow plans for relocation to a new stadium to be resurrected. Ron Martin hailed the agreement as a new start for Southend United and confirmed that the immediate future of the football club at Roots Hall has been safeguarded. “The deal will ensure that the club’s lease on the ground will be extended while we work towards a move to Fossetts Farm,” he assured fans. After all the disappointments, the news was greeted with caution, not least by the Shrimpers’ Trust. “We’re delighted that there is finally some positive movement on the stadium front,” said spokesman Paul Fitzgerald. “However we will be happier once we have seen detailed plans of the proposal. The move has to be good for Southend United as opposed to the property developer.”

On the pitch, the Shrimpers continued to frustrate their loyal fans, even prompting one independent website to claim that manager Rob Newman had “completely and utterly lost the plot”. The side began to slide slowly but with increasing acceleration towards the wrong end of the table and Newman was under fire from all sides. Ron Martin was clearly not happy with the progress of his team; he needed performances and he needed results to entice more fans into the ground to lift the average attendance towards that magical break-even figure of 6,000. “I have some tough decisions to make and have three options available,” he told the Evening Echo as the team crashed to another defeat. “I can change the squad and players who have underachieved, I can bring in a new manager or I can sit back and do nothing. One thing I certainly won’t do is the latter.”

By the end of March, Martin’s patience snapped. Six defeats in eight games ended any slim hope of reaching the play-offs and, despite a morale-boosting 1-0 home win over rivals Leyton Orient, Rob Newman was sacked. A club statement said: “Sadly success on the pitch, which has an inextricable linkage to the finances of the Club, has not been as the board would wish.” Coach Stewart Robson took over as caretaker manager. Plenty of hats were tossed liberally into the ring as Southend United searched for a new gaffer, including former manager Steve Thompson, Steve Wignall and Steve Whitton. Speculation also added Stan Collymore’s name to the list whilst former Portsmouth manager Graham Rix expressed an interest. But it was Wignall who was to win over the board and the former Colchester United man was installed as manager in mid-April. “This club has massive potential,” he told the media. “I feel we can go a long way.”

It looked as if the club was on the verge of a new era. Finances were gradually being brought under control – as much as they could – and the club had hired a manager with a decent pedigree. The summer of 2003 was dubbed the start of the ‘Wignall Revolution’ and excitement and expectation rose.

Plans to build a major retail warehouse at Fossetts Farm, a scheme that would have a distinct effect on the relocation of Southend United, had been proposed by Lansbury and was to be considered by government inspectors during the summer. But the developers chose to delay the planning decision until January 2004 as it felt it needed time to prepare its proposals properly. The project to move the Shrimpers would have to be put on hold.

The 2003/04 season kicked off with a team and a ground full of confidence of a bright new beginning and Cheltenham Town were seen off on a scorching August afternoon. However the Shrimpers would win just four more matches in the next twenty games as they slid towards the very bottom of the Football League. Just as it seemed to be getting better for everyone, the Wignall Revolution suddenly became the Wignall Devolution and by middle of September, Southend United had fallen into the relegation zone and in very serious danger of dropping out of the Football League altogether. Attendances fell and it seemed that even the club’s benefactor was indicating that they too had itchy feet when the Shrimpers’ Trust claimed that Delancey Estates would be willing to put the club up for sale at the right price, a revelation dismissed by Ron Martin. “Delancey have never been long-term players,” he insisted. “They are the financial muscle of the operation, brought in to help with our plans to relocate the club to a new stadium at Fossetts Farm.” However the stark truth was that it appeared that Delancey had run out of patience with the football club and a month later director Derek Wiltshire claimed that Ron Martin was looking to find a new partner to help run the club. “Delancey want out; there is no question of that,” he told those gathered for the Shrimpers’ Trust AGM. “And Ron is doing his damnedest to find another suitor.”

At the beginning of November, Steve Wignall was sacked with Southend United sitting in 22nd place in Division Three but only out of the relegation zone on a very slim goal difference from Darlington. Fans were thrilled to find out that David Webb would be taking over in a caretaker capacity. “When I left the club two years ago, I told Ron Martin to ask me if he ever needed anything and he has called in the favour,” said Webb. But he reiterated that he didn't want the job full-time. "I'm not about to change my mind about coming back. I'm only helping out," he told disappointed fans.

It soon became clear that Southend wanted Oxford United gaffer Ian Atkins as their new boss but within weeks a familiar name cropped up once again. “We are in discussion with Stan, but it’s very early days,” said deputy chairman Geoffrey King as the Evening Echo reported on a sensational return to Roots Hall of Stan Collymore as player-manager. Collymore himself claimed that he was the man to breath new life into the club. “I have one purpose and one alone — to get Southend United moving in the right direction as quickly as possible,” declared the former Liverpool and England player. “I want to give something back to the club that have me my biggest push along the road and that would be as bid an achievement as I have had in the game.” A few days later, a confident Evening Echo excitedly reported that Collymore was set to be named as the new gaffer — with former Manchester United star Lee Sharpe on the coaching team. However the club would later announce that Ian Atkins was their first choice and that taking on Collymore would be a “risk” and that the club needed someone with considerable experience in man management and tactical awareness.

As more names were linked with the job, including former Shrimper Martin Ling and ex-Swansea City gaffer John Hollins as well as Steve Cotterill and Nicky Law, caretaker-manager Steve Tilson was quietly carving out an amazing turnaround in fortune for the club. Five wins in six games, including success in the early rounds of the LDV Vans Trophy, had returned some confidence into the playing staff and, although the Shrimpers were still far too close to the relegation zone for comfort, many fans felt that maybe the board of directors were overlooking an obvious choice for the role of manager. By January 2004 Ron Martin admitted that he had no plans to change what seemed to be a winning formula of Steve Tilson and Paul Brush.

“They’re doing well and will be in charge for a little while longer.”

But for how long?

Part V to follow ...