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FOOTBALL'S FRONT LINES

The dangled carrot of a new home and a month without a manager — a seaside story

Fans being discontent with their manager is nothing rare in football.

But how about not having a one at all?

It’s been 42 days since Southend United had someone at the managerial helm.

The agonising wait for an appointment has taken fans on a frustrating journey culminating in anger towards owner Ron Martin after a perceived string of false promises.

“We’ve been through this all before with Ron,” Tom Wood told me on my Football’s Front Lines visit to Roots Hall ahead of the Shrimpers’ relegation ‘six-pointer’ with AFC Wimbledon.

“He keeps saying ‘we’re going to get this manager and that manager by the weekend’, the weekend goes and still no manager!

“Then he says ‘next Thursday’, Thursday comes and still no manager. We’ll just have to see what happens.”

Tom and Ryan Melton have doubts over the club’s ability to deliver on promises

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Tom and Ryan Melton have doubts over the club’s ability to deliver on promises

It’s this managerial goose chase that has garnered the attention of football fans across the country.

Southend’s shortlist for Kevin Bond’s successor reads more like the names you would see in the dugout 30 years into your Football Manager save.

Henrik Larsson was the standout candidate bizarrely linked with the top job.

The club has confirmed the Swede was on the verge of agreeing terms only for the move to break down at the final hurdle.

Larsson was spotted at Roots Hall earlier in the season

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Larsson was spotted at Roots Hall earlier in the season

The fans we spoke to made it clear that pedigree on the pitch and instant success in the hot seat is not a correlation they necessarily believe in.

“I would much rather someone who knows this division,” Ryan Welton said.

“They’ve got to have experience and a team of the right staff who can come in and help us.

“My preference would be Sol Campbell. He’s managed Macclesfield and basically did a mission impossible for them and hopefully he could do the same for us.”

Against all the odds Campbell kept Macclesfield in the Football League

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Against all the odds Campbell kept Macclesfield in the Football League

There’s little exaggeration in Ryan’s statement.

The situation facing Southend is undoubtedly a perilous one.

Only Bolton’s plight is keeping them off bottom spot and Gary Waddock’s extended stint as temporary manager has brought just one win in their fight for survival.

The fans’ frustration towards the lacklustre performances manifested itself within the first ten minutes of the Wimbledon fixture.

Piercing chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” soundtracked the away side racing into a 2-0 lead in the opening exchanges.

Southend went on to lose 4-1.

It doesn’t just rain, it pours

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It doesn’t just rain, it pours

“Behind closed doors, something is going on,” Tom explained. “But as fans we don’t know exactly what it is.”

“It’s so frustrating and we all know the longer things stay this way the closer to relegation we’re going.

“If we go down, I honestly think we’ll struggle to come back up again.”

The backdrop to the perpetuated hunt for a new manager further muddies the water around the sea-side club.

A dispute with Southend council over long-held plans to move into a new 21,000-seat stadium has rendered the club in a state of paralysis.

What the future could hold for the Shrimpers

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What the future could hold for the Shrimpers

The move to the Fossetts Farm development has been talked about since 2006, when Southend called themselves a Championship club.

Now over a decade later and flirting with relegation to English football’s fourth tier, the relocation has been put on ice.

“Don’t even ask me about the new stadium,” Tom joked.

“I don’t think it’s ever going to happen in my lifetime. I’m hoping we might have moved in by the time my little nephew is older, he’s six at the moment!

“I’ve been waiting since before we were in the Championship back in 2006, we’re now in 2019 and still no new stadium.

“Whether or not it’s actually getting built we don’t know!”

It’s damning that the situation has escalated to the point where fans want to turn a blind eye to the potential move.

What should be an exciting time for the club has been reduced to a point of ridicule.

Around Roots Hall you’re smacked with the grandeur of a shiny new stadium by posters and boards that urge fans to ‘support the club’s plans’.

Whether those plans will ever come to fruition is something fans are struggling to believe.

“About two years ago, I went to a meeting where they had all the plans laid out on the table and it looked amazing,” Tom said.

“Then you watch the YouTube video and start to get excited and now it just looks like a dream… a dream that’s not even gonna come true!”

Larsson’s departure from the managerial race has seen Campbell emerge as the new favourite alongside ex-Southend player Neil Harris.

Both candidates have suitable experience to boast of that could prove crucial in reversing the fortunes of the club.

The hope is that with improved performances on the pitch the stadium circus off it becomes a distant memory for fans.

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