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.
It is well documented that Southend United were formed at this meeting convened by landlord Oliver Trigg and a band of fellow enthusiasts.
Oliver Trigg - Landlord at the Blue Boar
The fledgling club usurped the prominence of the established Southend Athletic club, who were to disband soon after, and gained election to the professional Southern League Second Division. Their opponents were mainly reserve teams but also included the likes of Hastings and St Leonards, Tunbridge Wells Rangers and Salisbury City. The Southern League Division Two title was won twice in succession in the club's first two seasons. Bob Jack's side, led by goal machine Harold Halse and the mercurial inside forward Prince Blott, lost only five matches in that time. In later Southern League campaigns The Blues were forced on long trips to deepest Wales to fulfil fixtures against the likes of Mardy, Treharris and Mid Rhondda. The FA Cup was entered for the first time in 1907 with a match against East Ham. Early ties included games against long lost teams such as London Caledonians, Walthamstow Grange, Southend Amateurs, Custom House and the 4th Kings Royal Rifles.
Bob Jack - Blues' first manager
Blues Squad 1946/47
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.
Jack French scores an FA Cup goal vs. Bristol Rovers
Southend United 1954/55 season. Roy Hollis is in the middle of the bottom row.
The 1955/56 campaign was to prove one of the most pivotal in the club’s history. After 21 years at the largely unpopular Southend Stadium the Blues moved into their new home. The new Roots Hall had been built entirely by internal labour with Sid Broomfield leading a small band of men to build the stadium we know and love today. The entire cost of the stadium, save for a small grant from the Football Association, was met by the Supporters Club and their extensive fund-raising programme.
The opening day fixture against Norwich City attracted 17,700 to the new stadium, built on the site of the old Roots Hall ground the club had used between 1906 and 1915. The move had the desired effect, home league crowds averaged in excess of 10,000, some 2,500 up on the last campaign at Grainger Road.
Programme from the first game at the new Roots Hall.
The season ended on a low however when after sixteen years in charge of the club Harry Warren left for an ill-fated spell at Coventry City. Welshman Eddie Perry took over at the helm and failed to win any of his first ten games in charge. However, he steadied the ship and guided the club to three top ten finishes in Division Three without ever really challenging for promotion.
Training session at the new Roots Hall.
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.
Major Alf Hay MBE
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.
Blues take on Shinnik Yarosavi
The 1975/76 Squad
Manager Dave Smith
The 1978/79 Squad that took on the European Champions
Blues ran Liverpool close at Roots Hall
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.
Southend United – Division Four Champion 1980/81
By Peter Miles
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.
By Peter Miles
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.The paucity of goals was reflected in Martin Carruthers, who had left for Scunthorpe United in March, sharing the top scorer’s mantle with Ben Abbey and David Lee on ten apiece.
The FA Cup saw the club reach the third round and a 1-1 draw at Roots Hall against non-league Scarborough saw the incentive of a fourth round tie against Chelsea awaiting the replay winners. Scarborough won the replay by a solitary goal. In the LDV trophy however the Blues put together an impressive run, including a brilliant 4-0 defeat of QPR. The tireless workhorse of a centre forward, Drewe Broughton, became a cult hero as the Blues defeated arch rivals Colchester United in an all Essex Area final. The Shrimpers had qualified for their first ever major final and although the game would be staged at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, as Wembley was being rebuilt, cup final fever gripped the town. Blackpool stood in between Southend and, given League form, an unlikely victory. However the team froze on the big day went behind early and lost 2-0 in front of a crowd of 34,031.
Tilson had galvanised his team and automatic promotion looked a real possibility until a late season wobble meant the play-offs beckoned. In a tight semi-final against Northampton Town, only a Freddy Eastwood penalty separated the sides after two legs. The Blues were heading to Cardiff for the third time in 15 months, surely it would be a case of third time lucky? Lincoln City manfully stood up to the Blues for ninety minutes before an unlikely hero emerged in extra time. In the 105th minute Freddy Eastwood had given the Blues a narrow lead but promotion was gloriously confirmed five minutes later when full back Duncan Jupp ran fully seventy yards in searing heat to dispatch the ball masterfully into the Lincoln net. It was his first senior goal in ten years and secured promotion to League One.
By Peter Miles
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