Skip to main content

Southend United FC History

Peter Miles gives you a run through the history of Southend United Football Club...

Part One

Organised football in the Borough of Southend-on-Sea really started taking hold in the late 1890's. Clubs such as Southend Victoria, Southend Amateurs, Southend Corinthians, Southend Ramblers and even Southend Wesleyans were on the local scene at this time. A team called Southend United were recorded as early as 1898 but it is not known where they played. One thing is for sure is that they are in no way related to our club. At the same time over at Marine Park, which incorporated a football pitch among its attractions, Southend-on-Sea Football Club were establishing a reputation as a top amateur side. The clubs' colours were white shirts and blue ' knickers ‘. By 1900 this side has changed its' name to Southend Athletic, and although Marine Park was later to become The Kursaal, Athletics’ ground was radically different to the one occupied by Southend United in their early Football League days. It consisted of a railed off pitch surrounded by a 'trotting’ track and a large pavilion with absolutely no spectator accommodation. Also during 1900 a new pitch was laid out adjacent to the large property in Victoria Avenue called Roots Hall. Ironically one of the first teams to stage games there was Southend Athletic. However the face of football in the Borough was to change forever following a meeting held in the Blue Boar Public House on May 19th 1906.  

Part Two
The Fifties

Southend United headed into the 1950’s with the considerable optimism that gripped post-War Britain. In April 1950 Sandy Anderson joined the club from Newburgh Juniors and became a defensive stalwart for 12 seasons. He made 452 league appearances for the Blues; no man has played more. His overall total of 483 matches was only beaten in the 1980’s by Alan Moody.

Part Three
The Sixties

With Eddie Perry leaving Southend United as manager in February 1960, the club finished the campaign with Chairman Major Alf Hay selecting the team. The club finished in a disappointing mid-table position although Duggie Price enjoyed a very successful campaign, claiming 28 league goals in 41 games.

Part Four
The Seventies

Arthur Rowley’s first full season in charge at Roots Hall proved to be a spectacular disappointment. His three year contract with the club came with one of the highest salaries in the lower divisions. What was expected to be a promotion contending season faltered early on, the Blues winning just three of their opening thirteen encounters. Strangely for a record goalscorer like Rowley, his charges mustered only seven goals in that run. While his own signings took time to settle, it was Ernie Shepherd’s final signing that caught the eye. Young winger, Peter Taylor, a £100 signing from Canvey Island, gained some rave reviews when he broke into the team towards the end of the campaign. Prolific front man Billy Best top scored for the third successive campaign.

Part Five
The Eighties

If Southend’s relegation at the end of the 1979/80 season was a shock to the system, Dave Smith and his small squad provided the perfect antidote in the following campaign. Club records tumbled as Southend won the Division Four title in fine style. Using only seventeen players all season, three of whom only made fleeting appearances, Southend won their first ever major trophy as a Football League club. The team was built on a rock solid defence and an amazing home record. The team won nineteen and drew four of its 23 home games and in the ten home games between August 22nd and November 15th didn’t even concede a League goal at Roots Hall. Goalkeeper Mervyn Cawston went 985 minutes unbeaten in home games until Bradford City’s Bobby Campbell finally ended the run. It was two points for a win in those days, but under the present system, Southend would have clocked up a staggering 97 points as they headed the table from the likes of Lincoln City, Doncaster Rovers and the old Wimbledon club. Although it was a real team effort top scorer Derek Spence was voted Player of the Year and also won caps for Northern Ireland whilst with the Blues.

Part Six
The Nineties

David Webb started the 1990/91 with a much changed squad in spite of a successful promotion campaign. Top scorer for the previous three seasons, David Crown was allowed to leave for Gillingham and in his place came Brett Angell, a £100,000 capture from Stockport County. Other significant arrivals included Chris Powell and John Cornwall.

Part Seven

The 2000/01 season had not started particularly well for Southend United and despite a rally of three successive 1-0 wins in late September, Alan Little was replaced as manager by David Webb. His third stint in charge at Roots Hall saw 1,000 Shrimpers trek to Blackpool to welcome back one of the club’s most successful managers ever. Blues challenged for promotion for much of the season but in the closing months too many drawn games and a lack of goals meant a final position of 11th.

Part Eight

New Manager, Paul Sturrock inherited a depleted squad with just four contracted players, but his impressive scouting network assembled a varied and experienced crop of players for the 2010/11 campaign. Gems from the non-league scene, Sean Clohessy and Ryan Hall also proved pivotal signings.

Club Honours
Southend United Honours

League Honours

Elected to Football League: 1920
Division Two (Championship) Best Finish: 12th, 1991/2
League One Champions: 2005/6
League One Play-Off Semi-Finals: 2007/8
Division Three (League One) Runners-Up: 1990/1
Division Four (League Two) Champions: 1980/1
Division Four Runners-Up: 1971/2, 1977/8
Promoted from Division Four (third place): 1989/90
League Two Play-Off Winners: 2004/5, 2014/15
League Two Play-Off Semi-Finals: 2011/12, 2013/14
Southern League Division One Champions: 1906/7, 1907/8

Cup Competitions

FA Cup Best: Fifth Round 1920/1 (old third round), 1925/6, 1951/2, 1975/6, 1992/3
Football League Cup Best: Quarter-Final 2006/7
Football League Trophy Best: Runners-up 2003/4, 2004/5, 2012/3
Anglo-Italian Cup Best: Semi-Final 1993/4
Essex Professional Cup Winners: 1949/50, 1952/3, 1953/4, 1954/5 (shared), 1956/7, 1961/2, 1965/6, 1966/7, 1971/2, 1972/3
Essex Senior Cup Winners: 1982/3, 1990/1, 1996/7, 2007/8

Home Grounds

Roots Hall 1906-1919
The Kursaal 1919-1934
Southend Stadium 1934-1955
New Writtle Street, Chelmsford (shared) 1939-1941
Roots Hall 1955-present


Most appearances: Sandy Anderson 483 (1950-1963)
Most goals: Roy Hollis 135 (1954-1960)