Southend boss Phil Brown was pleased with what he described as a ‘good workout’ as Blues kicked off their pre-season preparations with a 2-0 win at Great Wakering Rovers on Tuesday night.
In front of fantastic crowd with over a thousand fans at Burroughs Park, Jason Demetriou put the visitors in front from the penalty spot after 21 minutes before one of the five trialists on show under the watchful eye of Brown nodded in Southend’s second from close range shortly after the restart.
Blues named a different set of outfield players for each half as Brown gave as many players as he could 45 minutes, and the Southend manager was pleased to have got through the first of seven pre-season games with some minutes in the tank and everyone unscathed.
"It was a good workout,” said Brown following the full-time whistle on Tuesday night at Wakering.
"We had two lots of 45 which was a good workout for everybody from a physical point of view. Nobody was injured, which is a big plus, and every one of the trialists I thought impressed. Not to earmark any individual, I just thought every one of the trialists had a good attitude and showed a good mentality to want to be with us next year.
"I’ve got some big decisions to make as I’ve not got that much of a budget left to spend. I want to have a look at them in a better game, not to be disrespectful to Great Wakering, against West Ham on Friday and Maidstone on Saturday and I’ll make decisions after then."
With further pre-season games to come this week against a West Ham XI and Maidstone United on Friday and Saturday respectively, Brown is keen to focus more on the mental side of the game this pre-season and wants to rebuild a winning mentality following successive relegations.
The Blues boss said, "The three or four years that I’d been away there was obviously some kind of issue with regards to winning games of football and once they started that losing streak and back-to-back relegations it’s not easy to pick up the mantle and turn it around.
"That’s our responsibility, our jobs in the next four-five weeks, is to get a winning mentality. Create an environment where players want to come in and work, want to come in and enjoy being at Southend United and hopefully be in a successful season next year.
"That for me is the hardest part of pre-season, it’s not fitness levels. I’ve had 40 years in the game so I know what pre-season looks like from a physical point of view, but not so much the mental side of things and I think that’s a real test of character when you’ve had back-to-back relegations and now we want to get a promotion on the CV and that isn’t easy. We’ll be working on the brain and the mentality more than anything else."
Three of Blues’ summer signings were on show for the first time this evening with James Dunne, Jack Bridge and Abu Ogogo all getting their first 45 minutes under their belts.
Southend, though, had three other summer acquisitions that were absent with Josh Coulson, Rhys Murphy and Steve Arnold all not featuring, with Brown giving us an update on all three.
"Josh Coulson reported in with a small fracture to his little toe. I think he’ll be ok, it happened on the first day of training. He tried to train with it and got through the whole of the session, but he went for the x-ray yesterday and found a little fracture in the little toe. Hopefully, by the time another seven days go by he’ll be ready for a pre-season friendly and fingers crossed he’ll be ok for the start of the season.
"Rhys Murphy reported with an injury, but he has trained the last three days. He could have played tonight but I didn’t think he had enough minutes under his belt from a training perspective to put him into tonight’s game. We’ll have a look at him Friday and hopefully Saturday.
"Steve Arnold, unfortunately, went down with Covid after one day’s training, so he’s in isolation and is out tomorrow. With that in mind, we’ve got another three or four weeks to get them three guys in particular fit and ready for action."
Simeon Akinola, like Arnold, missed the game with Covid, while Ashley Nathaniel-George has had an operation on an injury "behind his knee" Brown confirmed after the game, which ruled him out of the pre-season opener.