Stop Press: Just been listening to the play off final. With only 10 seconds to go and SUFC were about to lose and with it their dream of promotion deferred for another year – but then they equalized and went on to win a nail biting penalty shoot out and as a result promoted to League 1. I am pleased for friends and family who I know were there on this auspicious occasion. Listening to the commentary, it seemed it was not a great game but a win is a win. Commiserations Wycombe; Well done Southend!
Southend United Football Club (SUFC) is the one club I have been supporting ever since I was a boy. I have happy memories of my dad taking me along to its ground (Roots Hall) to see their First Team play, cheering them on together from the stands. They were in the third division of the Football League, later to oscillate between this and the fourth division. I have been a supporter ever since (for example whenever asked what team I supported, rather than say one of the “big gun” teams, I invariably said Southend). My supporter credentials are modest. I have been an infrequent visitor to their home games (I have only ever watched one away game) and haven’t watched a live game for three years. Yet theirs is the first result I look for when the football results are announced on a Saturday afternoon and I follow their fortunes whenever I can.
Sadly, Southend have always been in the lower divisions although it did spend a few years in the second tier of English football, and I still remember the game I watched when it went top of that second tier. Like many oldies, I have stronger memories of the teams I followed as a boy than more recent ones. I had hoped to follow the family tradition by taking my own boy along to watch games, but it became apparent early on that he wasn’t interested and the one excuse I had to attend games went at the same time. While I have loved the “beautiful” game of football ever since playing endless hours as a boy in the local park, I am not a keen follower of the professional game because of commercial and less savoury elements that have crept in, yet I feel beholden to follow my local club because however far from the “Corinthian” ideal the game has strayed SUFC remains intrinsically linked to my town and always I want it to do well. I am mindful in the day when money talks there is an issue of hanging onto good players, so I especially admire those who stay out of loyalty whose heart is for the club. This season, for example, I followed with interest its up and down fortunes, coming good at the end, only to fall at the last hurdle when on the brink of getting automatic promotion to the higher division. But one lives in hope in the face of adversity (which is the mark of a true supporter).
In recent years the club has been beset by money problems and possible financial irregularities. There has also been the long running saga of it moving its ground although that still remains a strong possibility and is likely very important as is having a successful club that continues to play an important role in the local community. I was reminded of my long term love affair with the club when last night I was following the play off semi final via the Internet, which SUFC managed to win after a tense finish. They are now on their way to a Wembley final and if they win that they will also win promotion. While my dedication is not such that I will try and get a ticket to watch that match, I will look forward to the game and will be hoping that my team will prevail.
Footnote: Whatever happens in the future, SUFC will still be my team and I intend to keep cheering them on and hoping they do well! Support for yesterday’s team parade in the town showing off their newly won trophy on top of the superb support seen for Saturday’s final all bodes well! Here’s wishing the team a good coming season in League 1.