Phil Brown appointed new manager
27 March ~ In the past eight years Southend United have had two successive promotions from League Two to the Championship, two relegations back to the basement division and two losing appearances in the Football League Trophy final in Cardiff, all amid an increasingly precarious financial situation. On Sunday the club sacked Paul Sturrock after almost three years in charge, despite him leading the Shrimpers to Wembley for another Football League Trophy final and sitting ninth in the league with an outside chance of the play-offs.
In a bizarrely punctuated and at times baffling statement which appeared on the club website, Southend chairman Ron Martin said two points from the 15 on offer against five lower-half teams this year was "not acceptable" in view of his investment into the club. However, as a sign of his largesse Martin wrote that Sturrock had agreed to his suggestion of leading out and managing the team at Wembley, an extraordinary scenario. On Monday Phil Brown was unveiled as just the third Southend manager in almost ten years.
The timing of the sacking has upset many Shrimpers' fans who are thankful for the sterling job Sturrock did; he inherited a club with just three players on the books and turned us into promotion contenders, despite having to deal with a number of transfer embargoes and ongoing appointments with the taxman at the High Court. Last season we missed out on promotion to free-spending Crawley by one point with a tally of 83 points, which in most seasons would have clinched automatic promotion. This year he has been hampered by a huge injury crisis.
A vocal minority of fans had been calling for Sturrock's sacking in recent months after a series of dire home performances, with just one win at Roots Hall in 2013. Others feared "Luggy" would walk at the end of the season anyway due to health concerns (Sturrock suffers from Parkinson's disease). "Ron Martin you absolute plonker" is a comment on Facebook which captures many fans' view of the chairman, who has increasingly become a figure of distrust and mirth due to his emotional outbursts online and continued assurances over a new stadium, which we are no closer to after years of delays.
So on April 7, as 30,000 Southend fans descend on Wembley for arguably the biggest game in our history, the strange – perhaps unprecedented – scenario of a sacked manager leading out and coaching the team will play out on Sky TV. Goodness knows whether Brown will be on the bench, in the stands or playing golf. Shrimpers' fans will brace themselves and hold on tight for another turn in the rollercoaster ride of supporting Southend United. Ed Beavan All At Sea Fanzine