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Southend United

Tears and fears for Southend United’s future



It may be my work, but writing things down has been unexpectedly helpful during these difficult times at Southend United.

As a result, I’ve written much more tales about the Shrimpers’ challenges than pages or website goals could ever justify.

But I hoped I’d have had to quit doing them by now. Chairman Ron Martin stated in March 2023 that he would put the club up for sale.

However, the purchase was never going to be straightforward.

Financially, the Shrimpers could not have been in worse form; the club lacked assets, and there was also an extremely complicated situation over land ownership and plans for Fossetts Farm.

Simply put, Blues were the most unappealing commercial prospect imaginable.

It culminated in months of sorrow and agonizing dread surrounding Roots Hall.

Staff went three months without being paid, an embargo was in effect for 15 months, players stopped pre-season while waiting for payments, and the club was punished 10 points for failing to pay off their HMRC debt.

Water was shut off at the training area, and it’s not an exaggeration to say it was as gloomy as it could get. Looking back, I’m not sure how the club managed to survive.

And I’m not sure how it survived the winding-up petition in August, when the judge visibly considered his next move before adjourning Blues again because to fan attachment.

That day and the quote have stuck with me ever since. The fans continued to support the team in large numbers, keeping a club that was on the verge of dying alive.

Chief executive Tom Lawrence and head coach Kevin Maher deserve recognition in this regard as well. And their consistent presence, combined with the team’s performance and the size of the support, kept us all going.

It may be too extreme to claim that a siege mentality developed, but there was a true sense of unity that had not been seen at the Shrimpers in a long time. That is not to suggest there were no further difficulties or challenges.

York City away still stands out, as the red cards handed to Harry Taylor and Gus Scott-Morriss made me question if the Blues would be able to fulfil their next fixture.

The tremendous reception given the Blues players at the final whistle brought tears to my eyes, demonstrating once again what Southend United might and should be. From the outside looking in from another part of the country, the Shrimpers appear to be a modest National League club. But think again.

The club is an important element of our city and community, as demonstrated repeatedly during the most turbulent period in the club’s long history.

Almost everywhere I went last summer, folks asked me about the newest developments. And it clearly demonstrated the strength of sentiment towards Southend.

The doom and gloom was alleviated when a consortium led by Australian Justin Rees expressed interest in becoming involved.

Fast forward a few weeks, and in October, it was revealed that the club’s sale had been agreed upon, with the completion date set for November 1. But this did not happen.

Just before Christmas, it was confirmed that the consortium and Ron Martin had swapped contracts to sell the Shrimpers.

At that point, it was reported that the consortium will take over by early 2024. But we’re still waiting for that to happen. The explanations are once again attributed to the situation’s complexity.

The council, as a whole, has been reluctant to respond, and the joy I once felt for Blues’ future has faded.

In fact, the situation has been so awful for so long that I’ve nearly become numb to the next bit of bad news from the club. But the last several days have really gotten me scared.

The club is back under embargo and in the High Court in late June as a result of a winding up petition filed by Stewarts Laws and, it is believed, an ex-sponsor.

Back at square one may not be the most accurate description, but I am as terrified of Blues as I have ever been. The group has already gone above and above to keep the Shrimpers going so far.

However, it makes little sense for them to continue putting money into a club with an uncertain future that they do not own.

The consortium has already paid £3.5 million, but where does it stop? Blues have pay day again tomorrow, which will boost their outlay, as will court fees and tax payments. I’ve found the consortium to be really welcoming, and they understand the club completely.

However, they have achieved success in business by being prudent, and they must now consider their future steps.

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