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#FL125: Tilson a Southend great

18 April 2014

You have voted Steve Tilson our greatest ever Football League player and manager

To be voted as a club’s greatest ever manager and player takes some doing, but Steve Tilson has managed just that in a poll conducted with the club’s fans as part of The Football League's 125th Anniversary celebrations.

Now 47, Tilson signed for Southend United from non-league side Witham Town in 1989 and, apart from a brief loan spell at Brentford in 1994, spent the next nine years as a fixture at Roots Hall, playing over 250 times and helping them to promotion from the Third Division in 1989/90.

He returned to the club in 2002, and then took on the job as manager in 2003, initially on a caretaker basis before making the role permanent the following year. In his seven years in charge at Roots Hall, Tilson led Southend to successive promotions from League 2 to the Championship in 2005 and 2006 and Football League Trophy finals in 2004 and 2005.

In the managerial vote, Tilson polled 53% to beat David Webb and Dave Smith, and to take the player honour he collected 31% to finish ahead of Stan Collymore, Billy Best, Chris Powell and Alan Moody.

The 2005/06 season, which saw Southend promoted to the Championship as winners of League 1, was voted as the club’s greatest with 62%, ahead of 1990/91 and 1980/81. 

Adam Barrett, a rock at the heart of the Blues defence for majority of Tilson's reign, was joint winner of the club's best skipper vote. He polled 30%, alongside Jimmy McAlinden, to share the accolade, ahead of Kevin Maher, Tony Bentley and Alan Moody.

Tilson was the only person to be voted both as a club’s greatest player and manager in the polls.  He sits alongside legends of the game including Brian Clough, Sir Bobby Robson, Sir Tom Finney, Billy Wright, Sir Stanley Matthews, Trevor Francis, Billy Bremner and Herbert Chapman who have all been named in a list of the greatest contributors to clubs’ league history in a vote as part of The Football League’s 125th Anniversary celebrations.

The names feature in lists for each of the current 72 Football League clubs’ greatest in various categories including managers, players, captains, fan favourites, matches and seasons.  The polls were run by The Football League to celebrate each club’s own contribution to the last 125 years of league football.  The results have been announced on the anniversary of The Football League’s formation on 17th April 1888 to bring down the curtain on a year of activity celebrating the start of the world’s original league football competition.

Nearly 100,000 votes were cast in the polls after clubs were first invited to compile their own shortlist for each category based on fans’ nominations via social media.

A list of the winners in each category can be seen at, and a club-by-club breakdown for each vote with more detail on the winners can be seen at

Supporters can find out more about The Football League’s 125th Anniversary at  Fans also still have a chance to visit a special exhibition called ‘Game Changers’ at the National Football Museum in Manchester celebrating 125 years of The Football League, with contributions from every club.  The exhibition is free to enter and open 7 days a week – for more details visit

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