On July 12th 2023, Southend United were given 42 days to finalise the sale of the club due to unpaid taxes totalling £275,000. That timeframe is up next week and we attended Southend United v Hartlepool on Saturday in what is their last home match before that deadline.
What’s the current situation
At the time of the last court date, the club had debts totalling around £2.5m. Since the new timeframe was issued, much has happened at the club. At the end of July the club were awarded a licence by the National League to participate in the 2023/24 season as football creditors had been paid (totalling approx £250,000) whilst staff were paid their outstanding wages. However the license is subject to the club clearing it’s tax debt by August 23rd.
Good start to the season
Southend on the pitch is a different story. The opening match of the season saw them dismantle Oldham Athletic 4-0 at Roots Hall in front of 5881 fans and this was followed up with a fantastic 2-0 away win at Dagenham and Redbridge.
Wednesday’s narrow defeat at Dorking prevented a third straight victory however overall this is a good start for a club struggling with just 15 players due to injuries and a transfer embargo. It really has been a massive achievement.
On arrival at Southend, my expectation was that I would hear lot’s of discussions about the above situation, that I would see concern etched on faces. That was not the case. Whilst much of what is going on is obviously in supporters minds, they were there to support the team – they are sick of the on-going issues. The fanzine “All At Sea” which we picked up before entering Roots Hall (well priced at £1), seemed to perfectly sum up the feelings with a cover headline of “D-Day Approaches (AGAIN)”
5547 fans would observe this match, of which 170 travelled from Hartlepool.
The headline says it all
Southend United play at Roots Hall, a stadium which has fallen on hard times. Had you viewed the arena before the season started, you wouldn’t have thought it possible to host football matches this season. However over 100 strong willed supporters turned up towards the end of July to give the largest football stadium in Essex the TLC it required.
Entering Roots Hall we were guided through the turnstiles towards Block HB. “Block HB? Never heard of it” said a season ticket holder when I asked where the area was. This continued until stewards explained this was a rare ticketing error which they had seen the previous week too. Block H was indeed the correct area and I took my seat well ahead of kick-off.
Where is Block HB?
Stairwell to Block H (and HB!)
So much better than tiny seat numbers!
There is something satisfying about having a partial view inside a stadium. Peering around a pillar to see what is happening in the match is a reminder of the traditional old stadiums – I prefer this to many of the out-of-city modern day bowls with a perfect view.
The glistening Southend United pitch
The fans may have been able to clean the stadium, however they cannot do much about the score-board. It was noticeable during the game that this wasn’t working. According to Mark, who I sat next to, it hadn’t been operational all season and can only assume this is another result of the lack of finances and that a repair will have to wait.
What’s the score?
The club were based at Roots Hall right back in 1906, however after the outbreak of war they moved location to a new stadium “The Kursaal” an old amusement park. In 1950 they moved once more to the Southend Stadium however this was only temporary, as they purchased the old Roots Hall site and started development of the now Roots Hall Stadium.
The stadium is located just 1km north of the seafront which is where we were staying and has a capacity of 12,392.
Southend v Hartlepool
Ahead of the match, 26 year old Southend striker Harry Cardwell was looking to score for a fourth consecutive match becoming the first player to do so since 1962 and was a handful from the first whistle. Below the teams emerge onto the pitch.
Early on in the match there were two weak claims from the Southend faithful which were waved away however it took just five minutes for The Shrimpers to make the breakthrough. Cardwell rose at the back post and whilst for a moment we thought he may have very quickly secured that record, it was Jack Bridge who buried it on the line. Southend 1 Hartlepool 0.
Hartlepool are however a good, free-scoring team having won their last two matches and scoring seven times in their previous three matches. At the centre of things today was Number 8 Anthony Gomez Mancini. The 22 year old has had just a handful of senior appearances since arriving in the UK from France with Hartlepool snapping him up from Accrington Stanley in July. On 11 minutes with his hair flying all over the place, he unleashed a venomous left footer which whistled just wide. Then, from a corner he had won, he came in late with a bullet header which went over the bar.
Hartlepool did pull level after 28 minutes and it was another long distance effort, this time from Tom Crawford. The goalkeeper got a hand to the ball however it wasn’t enough to prevent it finding the back of the net. Southend 1 Hartlepool 1.
At the start of the second half it looked as though it would be Southend making the breakthrough with numerous opportunities going begging. On no less than three occasions, the ball bobbled past the post including a Cardwell header who continued to look impressive leading the line.
Another chance for Southend United.
Harry Cardwell wins another header
Southend United scored the second goal which they deserved after 53 minutes when full-back Gus Scott-Morriss slid in putting the home side 2-1 up. Below the players celebrate in-front of the Southend supporters. Southend 2 Hartlepool 1.
That lead lasted just minutes as up the other end substitute Joe Grey equalised for Hartlepool on 57 minutes who was found far too easily. It really was an end-to-end game. Southend 2 Hartlepool 2.
Both teams continued to press. Hartlepool almost took the lead when their own full-back, Number 2 Daniel Dodds, ventured forward to rifle a shot against the outside of the post. Then it was that menacing Mancini (our man of the Match) who watched his effort enter the side netting. At first the Hartlepool fans cheered what they thought was a goal, only for Southend fans to jeer back to confirm it was not.
Minutes later Hartlepool DID lead. Charlie Seaman danced across the edge of the box and with momentum taking the ball forward with him, the ball sat up perfectly. Seaman didn’t hesitate in pulling the trigger and the ball flew into the bottom corner as Hartlepool led for the first time. Southend 2 Hartlepool 3.
Southend responded by bringing on Jack Wood on 75 minutes to join Dan Mooney who had come on just before that third goal injecting some energy in the number ten shirt however Southend had nothing left in the tank.
Cardwell leaps to win another header
Final Score: Southend 2 Hartlepool 3
After the match, Southend United Manager Kevin Maher was clearly frustrated with how the three goals had been conceded which ultimately led to a second successive defeat. Maher used words such as “sloppy” whilst acknowledging his players were “knackered” with such a bare squad.
By the time Southend fans see their team next, on Friday evening versus Eastleigh, much may have happened.
The next step
The good on-pitch performances will not hold any weight when it comes to the High Court hearing on Wednesday 23rd August. The club could receive an “immediate” and “automatic” 10 point deduction if the tax bill is not paid which would be hard to take following such a positive start to the season – currently on 6pts and 9th in the National League, Southend would plummet into the relegation zone – rock bottom.
We hope the Southend fans receive good news for their club this week, they deserve it. In the meantime, we applaud the efforts of fan clubs and supporters who have made it clear – Ron Martin must go now.
Centre pages of All At Sea Fanzine
If you are planning a trip to Europe (or in the UK), you can use the Futbology App to check which matches are in your area and on which dates. We added Southend v Hartlepool as a match ahead of the game which is a handy feature. It also alerted us to other matches in the vicinity.
With over 1000 leagues and more than 70,000 grounds within the Futbology App, not only can you check out matches where you are, but also where you plan to be. Add your games, collect badges and when you connect with friends you will be notified when they check in at a match too!
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