All clubs have their fair share of injuries, disruptions and bad luck throughout the season – but the next time you begin cursing your club’s luck, spare a thought for Southend United.
The arrival of club icon Chris Powell as manager at the back end of last season proved to be the catalyst that the club needed to secure its League One status; indeed, a strong end to the season offered cautious optimism for a healthier campaign this term.
But just over 12 months on, what can only be described as a catalogue of catastrophe has plagued the Essex club. A horrendous array of injuries and poor fortune has ultimately cost Powell his job, and left the club on the verge of losing its third-tier status.
Monday’s merciful, desperate 3-2 win over Burton was Southend's first since January 19, and finally ended a dismal run of 15 without one. With two games to go, the club remain outside the relegation zone by a single point.
Got to hurt
The staggering loss of key personnel for prolonged periods – no fewer than 12 first-team players have spent lengthy spells on the sidelines – meant the club with the fifth-highest budget in League One stuttered through the first half of the campaign. Ben Coker, Tom Hopper, Sam Barratt and Harry Kyprianou make up an unfortunate quartet of season-long casualties from the first half of the campaign.
But Southend’s plight has only deteriorated since the New Year.
A resounding victory at Bradford in January proved to be little more than a façade, as the Shrimpers embarked on that horrific run of results which forced suffering fans to wait just over three months for their next triumph.
The unprecedented injury list has hampered progress at Roots Hall this year, but Powell’s selections and tactics have also baffled fans at times. In recent years, the club built a foundation on solid home form – but they have a wretched record this year. Thirteen home defeats (59% of their matches played there) is an unwanted club record and the most in the division.
It’s been a campaign unlike any other, and the misfortune has felt never-ending. Each time fans have been given a reprieve, the next sucker punch hasn’t been far away. There can be no finer example than the team’s inability to see games out, having lost 12 precious points from goals conceded in the final 10 minutes of fixtures.
Firm but fair?
Such damning figures have unsurprisingly led to damning consequences. Powell was dismissed in March, just a week and a single game after being given the support of chairman Ron Martin. But amid poor performances and no indication of improvement on the horizon, many fans felt the decision was justified.
Kevin Bond is the new man at the helm, but the devastating run under his predecessor means Southend have slid from mid-table into one of the most remarkable relegation battles in recent memory.
Just five points separate Accrington Stanley in 14th and Scunthorpe in 22nd, with three teams guaranteed to join the disappointing Bradford in League Two next term.
Monday’s victory might be enough to make everything OK – just about – in this sorry season of struggle. But with such an unpredictable final eight days ahead, Southend must try to muster enough character and resolve to ensure it doesn’t end in ultimate heartbreak.
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