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Club History

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
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

The First World War intervened and Roots Hall’s fixtures and fittings were sold off and the ground requisitioned for allotments to aid the war effort. The wooden 200 seater stand that had been erected on the east side of the ground by a local firm, Ducat's, was dismantled with the wood being given to a local timber yard whose buildings had been damaged by enemy bombs. When hostilities ceased and football resumed in 1919 the Roots Hall site was deemed unusable and Southend United's only option was to move across town to the former Marine Park, now known as The Kursaal.
 
In 1920 the Southern League clubs, including Southend United, were elected en bloc to form the new Third Division of the Football League. A year later this became the Third Division South as a northern section had also been introduced. The honour of scoring Southend’s first ever goal in the Football League fell to Albert Fairclough. 
 
Despite having to apply for re-election to the League in only the second season, the Shrimpers really progressed when Ted Birnie became manager in January 1922. He turned a mid table club into one that challenged for promotion, though he never managed to get the club into the Second Division.
 
Prominent players in the Birnie era were Jim McClelland who was sold to Middlesbrough for a sizable fee, Billy Hick and Jimmy Shankly, older brother of Bill Shankly. One of the most notable matches in this period was the 4-1 trouncing of Second Division leaders Derby County in the FA Cup 4th round at The Kursaal.
 
Ted Birnie’s departure at the end of the 1933/34 season after twelve years ushered in a new era at the club. The Blues moved across town to the Southend Stadium in Grainger Road which was primarily a greyhound racing track, albeit with a larger capacity than The Kursaal. The old ground was demolished within two years of vacation. The new start also saw David Jack, son of Bob Jack, Southend’s first manager, take over the team. He had been the pre-eminent player of the time, having captained England and winning many honours with Bolton and Arsenal. 
 
Blues squad 1934/35
 
The team struggled along in mid-table under Jack although The Blues gave Tottenham Hotspur a fright in the FA Cup of 1935/6, drawing a dramatic game 4-4 at White Hart Lane. The replay at the Stadium was lost 2-1 but the crowd of 23,634 was a new club record.
 
Among Southend’s best players of the 1930’s were Len Bolan, Billy Moore, Leo Stevens and Irish internationals George McKenzie and Charlie Turner.
 
The 1939/40 season was abandoned after just three games after the outbreak of war with Germany. David Jack was called to London to work in a bank and after the war took up the manager’s job at Middlesbrough. Southend was a restricted area and the team had to relocate to Chelmsford City’s New Writtle Street ground. City’s manager became manager of both sides, although in war time matches the Southend side was effectively a combined side anyway. 
 
Warren stayed as manager of Southend when the Blues returned to The Stadium for the 1946/47 campaign. He had put together a useful, free scoring side and in that first season Cyril Thompson, Frank Dudley, Harry Lane and Alf Smirk all hit double figures for goals. 
 

Blues Squad 1946/47
 
The club suffered a blip in the 1948/49 season finishing fourth bottom of the table and narrowly missing the dreaded re-election vote. Warren had pulled off a masterstroke that season though, signing Irish midfield maestro Jimmy McAlinden who was to prove to be the fulcrum of the team for several seasons. The following campaign with “Jimmy Mac” in imperious form saw the Shrimpers challenging for promotion all season. However, a disastrous run of no wins in the last four games saw the team miss out finishing third behind Notts County and Northampton Town.
 
By Peter Miles

 

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.


Sandy Anderson

Crowds soared and under the consistent, long-term management of Harry Warren, the Blues entered a period where high scoring matches were a regular occurrence. At the Stadium in February 1951, Southend found themselves 2-0 down to Swindon Town early in a game. It was down to inspirational captain, Jimmy McAlinden, that the team galvanised themselves, completely swamping the visitors and winning by eight goals to two.
 
A season later the FA Cup proved a highlight with an impressive run to the fifth round. Bournemouth, Oldham, Southampton and Bristol Rovers had been dispatched in the previous rounds with sixteen goals being scored. A crowd of nearly 22,000 gathered at the Stadium for the visit of Second Division Sheffield United. Despite taking the lead through Albert Wakefield, the Shrimpers bowed out of the competition by a score of 2-1.
 

Jack French scores an FA Cup goal vs. Bristol Rovers
 
In this season both Jack French and Les Stubbs were selected for an Olympic Trial match at Highbury. Both Southend men scored in the game. Stubbs would join Chelsea for a not inconsiderable fee at the time of £10,000.
 

Les Stubbs
 
Towards the end of the 1953/54 a heartfelt standing ovation at the Stadium saw Southend say goodbye to its retiring captain, Jimmy McAlinden. In February 1953 Warren signed a gangly, skinny centre forward from Tottenham Hotspur reserves. The signing of Roy Hollis was a master stroke as he went on to score 135 goals in six years with the Blues. His record tally still stands today.


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.

It was a shame that promotion could not be achieved as Southend boasted some excellent players in this era. Arthur Williamson, a consistent Scottish full back who played in a record 229 consecutive matches for the club. There was also the likes of Sam McCrory who was capped by Northern Ireland, John McGuigan, Jimmy Stirling and Lou Costello. Eccentric goalkeeper Harry Threadgold was a crowd favourite although the advent of floodlights at Roots Hall in 1959 would restrict his appearances as he claimed he struggled to see the ball under their glare.
 
Eddie Perry would leave his post at the club in February 1960 so the Blues would enter the new decade looking for a new manager.
 
By Peter Miles

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
 
For the first season of the new decade, the club appointed Frank Broome as manager. He had a decent pedigree as a winger with Aston Villa and England and had cut his managerial teeth at Exeter. The board only offered him a week to week contract though and restricted him to just five new players in the close season. Prolific scorer Roy Hollis had moved on and Broome replaced him with Jim Fryatt. However, Broome did land a brilliant signing in young outside-left John McKinven from Raith Rovers. He would thrill Roots Hall for the best part of a decade.
 
Southend United 1960/1961
 
Broome’s tenure however was markedly shorter, by Christmas he was gone. Major Hay took the reigns again until the club secured the services of Ted Fenton towards the end of the season. The team finished 20th in the table missing out on relegation to Division Four by a single point.
 
Ted Fenton
 
After the controversy of white home shirts for the previous two seasons the club reverted to blue shirts for the 1961/62 season, albeit with a white pinstripe. Tony Bentley, who would spend twelve years with the club, joined from Stoke City. The Blues would improve steadily under Fenton and in the 1962/3 campaign, despite the worst winter weather on record, climbed to a respectable eighth in the final table, Ken Jones top scored for the second season running.
 
 
Tony Bentley
 
Despite an influx of new players for the 1963/4 season in the form of Jimmy Conway, Benny Friel, Bobby Gilfillan, Bobby King and Malcolm Slater the Blues struggled to gel and finished in the bottom half. A poor season was highlighted by an FA Cup first round exit at the hands of non-league Yeovil Town. The club also finished the season with significant debts of £42,000 with gates down by an average of 1,500 people per game.
 
Fenton left the club at the end of the 1964/5 campaign, another mid table finish resulted in the board deciding on fresh ideas. The new man at the helm was fiery Welshman Alvan Williams, a man who in later life would be charged with attempted murder of a young man outside the public house he ran. He had coached Bangor City to a famous European Cup-Winners Cup run. He spent a club record fee of £10,000 on bringing Italian international Eddie Firmani to Roots Hall from Charlton Athletic. Firmani’s wage packet would divide the dressing room and it became a disastrous campaign. In November, the club lost 9-1 at the Goldstone Ground against Brighton, their worst ever Football League defeat. It was a hopeless cause and the club were relegated for the first time since their Southern League days.
 
The club stuck with Williams, tightened its belt further, and a tiny squad launched into a first season in the fourth tier. The club faired reasonably well but shocking away form meant the club never really stood a chance of a promotion place. Firmani was sold back to Charlton in March for just £2,000 and a month later Williams decamped to Wrexham amid rumours he was about to be axed. Assistant Ernie Shepherd was promoted to manager and the board backed him with a record fee of £17,000 to bring Phil Chisnall to Roots Hall from Liverpool.
 
 
 
Phil Chisnall
 
In January of 1968 Shepherd again went to the board asking for money to strengthen his team. A £3,000 fee bought a Glaswegian forward to the club from Northampton Town. His name was Billy Best and would become a hero to a generation at Southend.
 
 
Billy Best
 
Blues looked to be heading for promotion in the 1967/8 season but an inexplicable collapse at the end of the season, that produced one win in the last nine games, saw Southend finish four points adrift of a return to Division Three.
 
The 1968/69 was a dramatic campaign, again Blues challenged for promotion under Shepherd’s guidance. Billy Best and Gary Moore forged a prolific partnership and Ian “Chico” Hamilton and Eddie Clayton would also reach double figures of goals. It should have been enough to gain promotion, but once again three defeats in the last four games saw the Blues finish five points short in the final reckoning. 
 
The FA Cup campaign, however, was a record breaking one for the club before a fourth round exit at the hands of Mansfield Town. In the first two rounds the club enjoyed home ties against non-league opponents. Kings Lynn were dispatched by nine goals to nil with Moore and Best sharing hat-tricks. The Shrimpers went one better in round two defeating Brentwood Town by 10-1 with Best hitting five and Moore four. It was the first instance of consecutive hat-tricks by the same players in successive rounds of the competition.
 
Southend United 1969/70
 
The final season of the decade proved to be a fragmented campaign. A poor start to the season saw Ernie Shepherd admitting to being on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He resigned in October and Geoff Hudson was bought in as manager. He lasted just 13 League matches, which produced a meagre four wins. The board persuaded Shepherd to hold the fort again while they looked for a new manager yet again. The man they chose was the all time record goalscorer in English League football, Arthur Rowley, who signed a deal in March 1970. However, despite Billy Best netting 23 League goals, the Blues finished in a miserable 17th place in Division Four. Surely things could only get better?
 
By Peter Miles

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.

In the build up to the 1971/72 season the Blues undertook a historic tour to Russia. Although all four matches played ended in narrow defeats, the tour was a resounding success and gained the club positive headlines.
 

Blues take on Shinnik Yarosavi
 
Rowley had rebuilt his team for the new season, notably in defence with Ray Ternent and Brian Albeson joining the club. After another slow start the side picked up substantial momentum in the League and also enjoyed an FA Cup success against eventual Third Division champions, Aston Villa. The club had a super run of seventeen unbeaten matches in March and April and looked strong bets for the title. However, a vital home game against Cambridge United was lost when goalkeeper Derek Bellotti was injured early on in the game. A further three draws handed the title to Grimsby Town but second place ensured a return to the Third Division. Long serving defender, Tony Bentley, was rewarded with a second testimonial match against Stoke City.
 
The new season saw an excellent signing arriving at the club, Alan Moody signed from Middlesbrough and would go on to set the club’s all time appearance record of 507 games. However, after a League Cup tie with Chelsea in September, the Shrimpers accepted a club record bid of £80,000 for Bill Garner from the Stamford Bridge club. Goals proved hard to come by without Garner and Gary Moore went a dozen matches with out a goal. In November Rowley bought in Chris Guthrie from Newcastle to help Best with the burden of goalscoring. He obliged with 15 goals in 25 games and steered the Blues to mid-table safety.
 
The next two seasons under Rowley proved to be a disappointment with the club failing to progress up the table, indeed an 18th placing in 1974/75 saw the Blues avoid relegation by a mere four points. Prodigious talent Peter Taylor had been sold to Crystal Palace for a record fee of £120,000 and would eventually win full England caps. Rowley had secured some very decent signings, Stuart Brace top scored in the 73/74 season and Tony Hadley and Ronnie Pountney would enjoy lengthy careers at Roots Hall. 
 
If those seasons were disappointing the 1975/76 campaign was an unmitigated disaster and would prove to be Rowley’s last at the helm. While the FA Cup proved to be a welcome distraction, Swansea, Dover, Brighton and Cardiff were beaten in a run to the fifth round, League form slid alarming during the season. A run of just two wins in the final thirteen games of the campaign ensured the Blues finished second bottom and dropped back to Division Four.
 


The 1975/76 Squad

 
Scotsman Dave Smith was the man charged with reviving Southend’s fortunes. He cleared out a number of Rowley’s men and signed the likes of Neil Freeman, Ken Price and Micky Laverick. While a tenth place finish in the League was viewed as a disappointment, the club reached the third round of the FA Cup for the fourth successive campaign.
 


Manager Dave Smith

 
Smith pruned his squad further, preferring to work with a smaller tightly knitted team. The fulcrum of the team, Alan Moody, Derrick Parker and Colin Morris would play every game while Laverick and Frankie Banks would only miss five games between them. While the Blues finished some distance behind champions Watford, excellent home form ensured promotion was always on the cards for the Shrimpers.
 


The 1978/79 Squad that took on the European Champions

 
Smith reinforced his defence for the challenges of the third tier by recruiting Micky Stead, Dave Cusack and Mervyn Cawston. All three would make a significant impact on the club. The team were marooned in mid-table for the whole campaign, with goalscoring problems hampering any hopes a good finish to the season. The previously reliable Derrick Parker, mustered only a dozen goals, yet this would be five strikes more than his nearest team mate.
 


Blues ran Liverpool close at Roots Hall

 
The undoubted highlight of the campaign would be the FA Cup which saw the Blues drawn at home to European champions Liverpool at home in the third round. On an icy pitch, the original date having been frozen off, the Blues gave their famous guest a hell of a fright and held them to a goalless draw in front of a record Roots Hall gate of 31,033. While the replay at Anfield was lost, legendary Liverpool manager Bob Paisley was full of praise for Dave Smith’s men.
 


Mervyn Cawston

 
The last season of the decade would prove to be a real shock for Smith’s men and would result in relegation. Pre-season was difficult after the whole squad went down with food poisoning following a game at Dover. When the season proper started it appeared to start well, a League Cup run had seen the club defeat First Division opposition away from home for the first time ever when Bolton Wanderers fell to two goals from Colin Morris. The third round saw a three game epic against West Ham United with a crowd of 22,429 watching the first replay at Roots Hall. The FA Cup though would prove the antithesis this however, the Blues suffering the ignominy of a defeat to Isthmian Leaguers Harlow Town. 
 
Smith altered his strike force mid season, trading Colin Morris for Derek Spence from Blackpool and buying Keith Mercer for £80,000 from Watford. The new strike partnership could not halt the slide and a run of one win in the last five matches of the season meant the Blues finished two points short of safety. The new decade would start in the basement division once again.
 


Derek Spence

 
By Peter Miles

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

Southend looked, at times, good prospects for a second straight promotion in the following season. However, inexplicable losses of form such as six straight draws in February and no wins in the final four matches, saw the club finish a creditable if somewhat disappointing seventh in Division Three.
 
The 1982/83 was to prove to be the end of a golden era. If the departure of Derek Spence in the close season caused raised eyebrows the sale of Dave Cusack and Anton Otulakowski to Millwall in March for a meagre combined fee of £60,000 was alarming. A bad run of form after the sales saw the Blues slump to 15th in the table. Steve Phillips, an admirable replacement for Spence, topped scored with a creditable 20 goals whilst veteran midfielder Ronnie Pountney was the clubs Player of the Year for an unprecedented third time.
 
These were troubled times off the field for Southend, long standing owners the Rubin family had sold out to local butcher turned entrepreneur Anton Johnson. Popular manager Dave Smith was dismissed whilst on holiday in Tenerife only to stage a lock-in in his office at the club when he returned. He would successfully sue the club for damages. The turmoil meant new incumbent, Peter Morris, was appointed late in the close season and had little time to muster a decent squad. He had inherited just ten contracted players, two of which were goalkeepers.
 
Southend United 1983/84
 
Morris would last only until February, his dismissal was formerly announced on the cover of the Associate Member’s Cup game at home to Reading, a tie the Blues would emphatically win 5-0. The new man in charge was already at the club and was a household name. England’s World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore was a member of the board at Southend and accepted the request to step into the breach following Morris’ departure. However, the great man could not stop the rot and after only ten wins all season Blues slid into the bottom four some five points adrift of safety.
 
 
Bobby Moore
 
Moore would preside over arguably Southend’s worst ever season of 1984/85. Money was going missing at an alarming rate and crowds dwindle to an all-time low, home crowds averaged fewer than 2,000 for the first and only time in the clubs history. An experiment with Rugby League at Roots Hall under the guise of Southend Invicta was also leaking money hand over fist. Just 85 people paid to watch the game against Huddersfield Barracudas.
 
Five defeats in a row without a single goal being scored saw the Blues going into the final match of the season at home to rock bottom Torquay United with a win absolutely essential. Anything less and the club would be pitched into the lottery of the re-election battle where clubs in the bottom four would go cap in hand to League members in the hope they would garner more votes than any would be newcomers from the non-league world. Rivals for the fourth spot Halifax Town had won at home on the Friday night against Swindon Town to finish with 50 points. Southend were now fourth bottom on 47 points (it was now three points for a win), but a marginally better goal difference meant a win would suffice. A Steve Phillips penalty secured a much needed 1-0 win for Southend. The threat of re-election proved academic as Gola League champions Wealdstone withdrew their application and the bottom four clubs were re-elected unopposed. Meanwhile debts at the club had trebled during the season, and although Anton Johnson had been ousted and also banned from involvement in football, Southend under new chairman Vic Jobson faced a considerable period of rebuilding.
 
 
Steve Phillips
 
Bobby Moore bought in seasoned veterans Frank Lampard and Barry Silkman whilst Roy McDonough returned to Roots Hall from Exeter. At £4,000 the purchase of Richard Cadette from Leyton Orient would prove to be a steal. The young forward announced himself emphatically with a four goal salvo on his full League debut against his old team at Roots Hall. 

 


Richard Cadette

 
Crowds were still a concern though, just seven years after the new attendance record was set against Liverpool a nadir was reached in March when just 1,006 watched the League game at home to Halifax Town, the lowest home League gate ever. Worse still was the “crowd” for the home Freight Rover Trophy tie Northampton Town, just 683 hardy souls attending. Blues did, however, mount a challenge for promotion with Cadette scoring 25 goals, but some wretchedly inconsistent results saw the team fall away to a final position of ninth. However, Bobby Moore had already announced his decision to resign from the manager’s post.
 
The new man at the helm was Dave Webb who set about dismantling Moore’s squad. In came the likes of Peter Johnson, Derek Hall and Dave Martin. 
Blues challenged for promotion all season and enjoyed a big League Cup tie with Manchester City which was narrowly lost 2-1 on aggregate. In March the club was rocked by Dave Webb’s resignation, citing interference from the board as his reason. 
 
Stalwart player Paul Clark stepped into the void and attempted to finish the promotion job off. A vital win at home to Wolverhampton in late April in front of over 10,000 people meant a top three finish was achievable. A Friday night trip to Stockport in the final game meant a win would mean Wolves could not overtake the Blues by winning the following day. Goals from Glenn Pennyfather and Richard Cadette, his 31st of the campaign, ensured the required points came back to Essex.
 
 
Glenn Pennyfather
 
The 1987/88 season saw Clark return to playing duties as Vic Jobson ushered in a new manager, Dick Bate, who though untried at League level, had a reputation as an outstanding coach. 
 
 
Southend United 1987/88
 
Cadette had been sold to Sheffield United and Bate bought in the likes of Chris Ramsey, Eric Steele and Richard Young. The appointment was to prove disastrous, aside from a League Cup win against Brentford, Bate failed to win any of his twelve League games in charge. By September he was gone and Clark once again stepped in to steady the ship. One of his best moments as boss came quickly, a memorable 1-0 win over First Division Derby County in the League Cup. A Roy McDonough penalty against England goalkeeper Peter Shilton settled the tie. Clark’s capture of David Crown in November would prove pivotal in a remarkable escape from relegation after such an appalling start to the season.
 
Paul Clark
 
The 1988/89 season, however, proved to be a real struggle. Even the re-introduction of Webb as manager in December could not halt the downward slide. A disastrous run of six games without a win in the run in to the end of the season meant a final day home win over Chester was not enough as the Blues went down by goal difference having secured a decent tally of 54 points.
 
The disappointment of relegation was short-lived however as Webb rallied the troops for another tilt at promotion. The season started well, a great two legged League Cup win over Colchester earned Southend a plum tie against Tottenham Hotspur. A narrow 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane meant there was all to play for in the second leg at Roots Hall. Goals from Gary Bennett (2) and Dave Martin, ensured a shock 3-2 win on the night, but the Londoners sneaked through on the away goals rule.
 
League form gathered momentum, and even a shock FA Cup defeat at Aylesbury United could not detract from the target of an immediate return to the Third Division. A magnificent brace from 23 goal top scorer David Crown on the final day of the season at Peterborough United ensured third place in the table behind champions Exeter City and Grimsby Town. Southend would finish a tempestuous decade as they had started it with promotion to the third tier.

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.


The season started very well indeed with eight wins in the opening nine matches ensuring the Blues lead the table in the early weeks. Less impressive though was an 8-0 trashing at Crystal Palace in the Rumbelows Cup. The unpopular Leyland DAF Cup however saw the Shrimpers find their scoring boots with a club record equalling 10-1 victory against Aldershot in the opening. New man Angell claimed four and there was also a hat-trick for Steve Tilson. A subsequent tie against Torquay saw the Blues rattle in seven goals without reply in the final 25 minutes of the game, Andy Ansah this time keeping the match ball.
 
League form dipped in the Christmas and New Year period and Webb strengthened his defensive options with Pat Scully arriving from Arsenal. As the run in to the end of the season began missed opportunities at home to the likes of Chester, Wigan and Cambridge saw promotion rivals gain valuable ground. A win at Exeter though saw Blues in the home straight knowing a win on the road again up at Bury would secure back to back promotions for Webb’s men. A tense encounter ensued at Gigg Lane, not helped by Scully’s early dismissal for an injudicious challenge. The ten men rallied and as the game entered the closing stages Andy Ansah yet again rampaged down the right flank, his scuffed cross fell to Ian Benjamin. The man who had terrorised Southend in the 80’s as part of the powerful Northampton side turned neatly on the edge of the box. His deft shot found the corner of the home net and the away terrace paused momentarily to let the realisation dawn, and then unbridled jubilation was unleashed. It was a truly iconic moment in the club’s history.
 

 

Southend had won promotion to the second tier of English football for the first time ever. The squad was bolstered with the arrival of Kevin O’Callaghan and Andy Sussex. After a difficult start goals started flowing, Brett Angell set a post-War club record by scoring in seven consecutive games, falling just one short of Billy Hick’s all time record. For the first time in the club’s history the team entered the FA Cup at the third round stage, drawing Everton away at Goodison Park. Blues gave a great account of themselves losing to a single Peter Beardsley goal. The match had come three days after a 4-0 home win over Newcastle United on New Years Day which had seen the Shrimpers temporarily top the First Division table.
 

 

Form wavered though and despite a club record fee of £175,000 spent on the services of Keith Jones, the club finished in twelfth position in the final analysis.
 
The season finished on a flat note when David Webb resigned for a second time. The board appointed the experienced Colin Murphy as his replacement and his unusual training methods and rambling philosophical programme notes had the Blues faithful scratching their heads. On November 21st however, Murphy pulled off a master stroke by rescuing a young centre forward from Crystal Palace reserves. Stan Collymore burst onto the Southend scene like no other player in living memory. Raw strength, skill and energy saw him rattle in 18 goals in 33 games. It had, however, remained a season of struggle and Murphy paid the price with his job. Barry Fry was drafted in to save the Blues from the drop. He seemed to get even more out of Collymore and four wins out of the last four home games ensured survival on the last day of the season against Luton Town. Collymore was chaired of the pitch in his underpants, it was to prove to be the last time he wore and lost a Southend shirt. 
 
In the summer he was sold to Nottingham Forest for a fee of £2,250,000, shattering the club’s record fee. With Fry’s undoubted acumen in the transfer market, the fee eventually climbed to an astonishing £3.57 million. It was widely viewed that Collymore was the most naturally gifted player the club had ever fielded.
 
Fry shed many players in the summer and bought in the likes of Ricky Otto, who would light up Roots Hall with his mesmeric dribbling, Jason Lee and Gary Poole who would cost a club record fee of £400,000. A clutch of players also arrived from Fry’s former club Barnet. By January however, Fry was gone. Despite saying he wouldn’t leave the club he changed his mind and amid not inconsiderable acrimony departed for Birmingham City. Former Southend player Peter Taylor was handed the reigns and the team laboured to a final placing of 15th.
 

 

Taylor again struggled to get the team going in the 1994/95 campaign with goalscoring proving to be a real problem for his charges. Despite the luxury of the vastly experienced Ronnie Whelan in midfield, the team struggled for form and as relegation looked a serious possibility Taylor resigned in February. Steve Thompson was handed the job on a caretaker basis with a dozen games remaining. It marked an unbelievable change in the team, confidence flowed through every player and goals came thick and fast. Eight wins under Thompson ensured a comfortable placing of 13th in the final reckoning.
 
 
 
Thompson turned down a full time contract and Ronnie Whelan took over as player-manager, although he would suffer a career ending injury in the opening game of the 1995/96 season. The club spent unprecedented amounts in the transfer market, Mike Marsh arrived from Galatasaray for a record £500,000 whilst Mike Lapper, Andy Rammell, Mark McNally and Jeroen Boere all commanded six figure fees.

 

Despite the influx of new players goalscoring again proved to be the weakness in the team, Dave Regis would top score with eight League goals despite leaving the club in February. A final placing of 14th was only seven points above relegation in a tight division.
 
The success and glamour of the first half of the 1990’s would be mirrored in the starkest possible fashion by the second period of the decade. Whelan’s second season in charge was an unmitigated disaster with the club finishing bottom of the First Division table winning just eight games all season. 
 

 

Whelan departed and ex West Ham and England defender Alvin Martin was charged with halting the slide for the 1997/98 season. It was another desperate period for the Blues, a run of five games without even being able to score a goal at the turn of the year summed up a dire campaign. The Blues were relegated for a second time in successive seasons, again finished at the foot of the table. For the 1998/99 season Martin drafted in the experienced Mick Gooding as his assistant but to no avail, an 18th place finish saw the club flirting dangerously with the trapdoor to the Conference.

 

The final season of the decade saw Martin Carruthers arrive from Darlington for £50,000 and he would score 19 times for the Blues in his debut campaign. However goals among the other players were scarce and by early March Alvin Martin had left the club as manager. The Blues board turned to another former Southend player as the new man in charge as Alan Little was appointed manager after a successful spell as a player more than twenty years previously. The final nine games of another wretched season mustered only five League goals as the Blues limped to 16th place in the table. However, popular left back Nathan Jones bought the curtain down on the 20th century with a wonder goal in the final game at home to Cheltenham Town.



 

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. 

For once the season had been notable for cup performances. In the FA Cup the Shrimpers drew neighbours Canvey Island in the second round. The tie was switched to Roots Hall and a big crowd of 11,402 saw the Blues win by two goals to one. Unusually the club were drawn against another non-league side, Kingstonian, in round three but went down to an ignominious 1-0 defeat, only the second time the club had succumbed to a non-league side at home in the FA Cup. In the Leyland DAF Cup the Blues enjoyed a win over Swindon Town on the briefly employed “golden goal” rule en route to the Area final. In the two legged area final though, Brentford proved too strong winning 4-2 on aggregate.
 
2000-01
2000/01 Squad
 
By October 2001 Webb had resigned from Roots Hall for a third time citing health problems as the reason. Veteran player Rob Newman, popular with the Roots Hall crowd for his whole hearted play, was handed the job of trying to get the Blues out of the basement division. It was another average season however despite the arrival of several new players like Leon Cort, Barrington Belgrave and Steve Clark. Away form yet again proved problematic with just three wins on the road. The 2002/03 campaign was also a real struggle for the club and although never in real danger of relegation to the Conference, the clubs low position in the table saw Newman relived of his duties in March 2003. Ex Arsenal midfielder, Stewart Robson had been bought in to assist Newman with coaching and was handed the job on a caretaker basis until Steve Wignall was ushered in as the new manager.
 
Wignall’s stay at Roots Hall lasted just 23 matches, the Blues had won just two of the first twelve games of the 2003/04 season. Dave Webb returned briefly this time for a four game fourth spell as manager before former player Steve Tilson was given the chance to manage the club he had served so well as a player. The Shrimpers flirted with relegation to the Conference all season despite Leon Constantine’s proficiency in front of goal. The striker’s 21 League goals meant he was the first player to score twenty League goals in a season since Brett Angell more than a decade previously. 

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.
 
2004-05
2004/05 Squad
 
Tilson revamped his squad for the 2004/05 season with many expecting another difficult campaign. His key signing though came in October when he bought in youngster Freddy Eastwood, initially on loan, from non-leaguers Grays Athletic. He announced himself in the best possibly way with a debut hat-trick against Swansea City, the first coming after just 7.7 seconds of the game. The LDV trophy again proved successful with the club reaching the final for the second consecutive season. However, Wrexham proved to be the better side in the final and won by two goals to nil. 

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. 
 
Jupp

After seven seasons in the basement division, many would have settled for a season of consolidation, Steve Tilson though had other ideas. He bought in some experienced players like Efe Sodje and former Manchester City legend Shaun Goater, while Spencer Prior returned to the club where he started his career. The acquisition of the veteran Goater proved a masterstroke, a knowledgeable foil for the rampant youngster Freddy Eastwood. The club topped the table on January 2nd and stayed there until the end of the season to win the championship in fine style. The Blues needed to win on the last day of the season to deny Essex rivals Colchester United the coveted silverware and a tense game against Bristol City at Roots Hall ensued. Home fans had dressed up in Caribbean style clothing to say farewell to Shaun Goater who had announced his retirement. With a few minutes remaining and the game still goalless, the game paused as the entire crowd, including some 400 Manchester City fans, gave an incredible ovation to an emotional Goater as he walked of a pitch for the last time. His replacement, Wayne Gray, settled the nerves of the home crowd with a goal three minutes from time. Southend United were League One champions and Tilson had achieved back-to-back promotions.
 

League1
 
Southend’s stay in the Championship was brief, winning only ten games all season. Tilson’s men had dropped in the bottom three in September and remained in it all season, finishing seven points adrift of safety. The cup competitions proved more heartening however, Bournemouth, Brighton and Leeds United had all been dispatched in the Carling Cup when Southend drew the big one in the fourth round, Manchester United at home. The illustrious visitors respectfully fielded ten internationals including golden boys Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. In the 27th minute Southend were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box, Freddy Eastwood curled the ball past the wall and into the top corner for a goal worthy of winning any game. The visitors battered the Southend goal for the rest of the match but they could not find a way past a superb Darryl Flahavan in goal. Legendary manager, Alex Ferguson rued the “bloody nose” Southend had given his team. Tottenham put the Shrimpers out of the competition in the fifth round, although extra time was needed at White Hart Lane to separate the sides. Strangely the side from North London also accounted for the Blues in the FA Cup as well that season, winning a fourth round tie by 3-1 at White Hart Lane.
 
It was back to League One for the 2007/08 season with Tilson bringing some astute signings throughout the campaign, notably Leon Clarke, Nicky Bailey and Lee Barnard. Meanwhile, Freddy Eastwood had departed to Wolves for a fee of £1,500,000. The club were on the periphery of the promotion picture all season and it was no surprise that the regular season ended with a position in the play-offs. A resurgent Doncaster Rovers were the semi-final opponents and it was they who progressed to the final after a limp second leg performance by the Blues resulted in a 5-1 mauling.
 
The following season was more of the same, some great spells of form but ultimately falling five points short of another play-off adventure. The undoubted highlight of the 2008/09 season was an FA Cup third draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Fuelled by endless oil money Chelsea was a truly tough opponent for the Shrimpers and 6,000 supporters headed towards West London for the glamorous tie. Predictably Chelsea launched a barrage of attacks but only had a Salomon Kalou header to show for their efforts. Southend’s Peter Clarke, celebrating his 27th birthday, scored a 90th minute equaliser to silence the home crowd. Remarkably in injury time the same player saw a header hit the crossbar as the Shrimpers pressed for an unlikely winner. The replay at Roots Hall bought welcome cash into the coffers, but there was to be no fairytale ending as Chelsea cantered to a 4-1 victory.
 
Chelsea
 
The last season of the decade was to prove dispiriting, the club had lost some key players, Peter Clarke went to Huddersfield and in January top scorer Lee Barnard moved to Southampton for £175,000. He would remain the clubs leading goalscorer despite playing only half the campaign. A lack of goals and low confidence saw the side relegated to League Two with only Stockport County below them in the table. After seven highly entertaining seasons in charge Steve Tilson was replaced at the helm by Paul Sturrock.
 

By Peter Miles

New Manager, Paul Sturrock inherited a massively 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. 
 
 
A mid table finish seven points adrift of the play-offs was a decent effort after the considerable turnover of personnel. For the 2011/12 season Blues mounted a serious challenge for promotion to League One being in an automatic promotion position as late as March. 
 
However, indifferent form at a vital period, encapsulated by the eccentric performances of French import Bilel Mohsni, meant promotion would have to be achieved via the play-offs. Sadly the Shrimpers drew the in-form team in the semis and lost to a rampant Crewe Alexandra side. 
 
Sturrock again shuffled his pack for the 2012/13 campaign bringing in promising strikers Gavin Tomlin and Britt Assombalonga. Freddy Eastwood, having returned on loan towards the end of the previous campaign, would sign a deal as well. Crowd favourite Barry Corr would also make a triumphant return to the game after 17 months out through injury. 
 
Blues, however, never really mounted a serious promotion challenge with home form being the team’s Achilles heel. Once again though, solace came in the shape of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, the latest incarnation of the much maligned Football League Trophy. The run included a penalty shootout win, late goalkeeper substitutions and a truly dramatic last gasp Area Final goal by Ben Reeves against Leyton Orient. 
 
League form had remained indifferent however and Sturrock would be relieved of his duties in the weeks leading up to Southend’s first ever Wembley final appearance. 
 
 
Phil Brown was charged with overseeing the last few weeks of the campaign as Wembley fever gripped the town. A magnificent 32,000 tickets were sold as Wembley Stadium was well and truly painted blue. However, a crippling injury list saw Crewe Alexandra secure the trophy. 
 
 
Phil Brown’s first full season in charge saw the Blues come within touching distance of League One.
 
The Boss made many additions to his squad for the upcoming campaign including the likes of John White from neighbours Colchester United, Will Atkinson from Bradford City and Ben Coker following a successful trial. 
 
 
A disappointing start to the season put pay to Southend making the automatic promotion spots as they won only three of their opening ten games, losing five. 
 
Phil Brown’s side rallied though and finished comfortably inside the play-offs by ten points in fifth position. Standing in the way of another trip to Wembley was Burton Albion, a side that Blues had beaten twice in the regular season. 
 
But when it’s the lottery of the play-offs anything can happen and after losing 1-0 in the first leg at the Pirelli Stadium it all came down to the second leg at Roots Hall. Sadly, a 2-2 draw meant the Blues fell short and it was back to the drawing board for the 14/15 season. 
 
Phil Brown strengthened his squad yet again as Southend eyed automatic promotion in 14/15. Myles Weston, David Worrall and Gary Deegan were amongst those who came in for the new campaign. 
 
After a slow start, Blues started to hit the ground running in September winning four consecutive games. Some poor form over the winter caused Manager, Phil Brown to strengthen yet again and it proved a masterstroke as ‘Mr Southend’, Adam Barrett returned to the club along with striker Joe Pigott who joined on loan from Charlton Athletic. 
 
As the season approached it’s ‘Business End’ Southend were in inspired form going on a seven game winning run with Dan Bentley breaking a club record of 11 consecutive clean sheets at home. 
 
Southend went to Morecambe on the last day of the season knowing that a win would see them automatically promoted to League One. It was not to be Blues day though as they lost 3-1 and were pipped to third place by Bury. 
 
So it was to be the play-offs again for Southend, but the players weren’t feeling sorry for themselves and professionally saw off Stevenage over two legs to seal a Wembley date with Wycombe Wanderers. 
 
Daniel Bentley was hero as Blues defeated beat Wycombe on penalties to win the Sky Bet League 2 Play-Off Final on the hallowed Wembley turf. 
 
Cometh the hour, cometh the man as Bentley stepped up to deny Sam Wood's effort to complete the League One march under the arch. 
 
It had all looked so different in extra time as it looked for all the world that Joe Jacobson's 25-yard free-kick had given Wycombe the win. 
 
As time ticked on and went into stoppage time, up stepped Joe Pigott to slot home in the 122nd minute to take it to the lottery of penalties. 
 
This was to be Blues first return to the third-tier in five years. 
 
Joe Pigott scores in injury time of extra time in the Play-Off Final
 
Phil Brown made some additions to his attacking line ahead of Southend’s first season in League One in 2015/16, adding the goalscoring experience of Noel Hunt and David Mooney. 
 
After taking time to adjust to stepping up a division Blues got their first win of the campaign in front of the TV cameras against Peterborough United at Roots Hall. Goals from Adam Barrett and summer signing, Hunt secured a first class victory over Posh. 
 
Towards the end of September, Blues were thrown into the Lion’s den at Millwall, and came out triumphant after goals from Barrett and another new boy, David Mooney gave Phil Brown’s side all three points. 
 
The league was now having to sit up and take notice of Southend; a team who had stepped up a division, but was also stepping up a gear or two. 
 
A four goal demolition of Bury put supporters in the Christmas spirit, and the 2-0 Essex derby win took them to dreamland with goals from Captain John White and David Mooney. 
 
The New Year began with a bump as successive defeats brought Southend back down to earth. 
 
The squad pulled their socks up, and a last gasp penalty save from Dan Bentley at Peterborough United galvanised the team to finish January with an impressive 3-0 over Coventry City; Tyrone Barnett bagging two on his home debut! 
 
The first week of February brought about two games, six points and another comprehensive victory in the ‘Battle of Essex’. 
 
Goals from Anthony Wordsworth on his return from injury, Mr Southend Barrett and Saints loanee Sam McQueen saw Blues ease past Colchester United. 
 
 
Inconsistency put pay to Southend’s hopes of making the League One play-offs however, as they finished the season in 15th positon on 59 points. 
 
The following season started slowly, and 12 games in Blues were facing a season fighting relegation. But when players such as Anthony Wordsworth and Anton Ferdinand found their fitness, and players like Simon Cox, who joined in the summer of 2016, found thier form, Blues pushed for promotion.
 
Unfortunately, the season finished with Blues missing out on the play-offs by one point to Millwall on the final day of the season, leaving Blues to finish in 7th.
 

Club 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

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

Most appearances: Alan Moody 504(1972-1984)
Most goals: Roy Hollis 135 (1954-1960)
Most capped player: George MacKenzie 9 Republic of Ireland
 
Roots Hall: 1906-1919
The Kursaal: 1919-1934
Southend Stadium: 1934-1955
New Writtle Street, Chelmsford (shared): 1939-1941
Roots Hall: 1955-present