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Zippin' up my boots

Words by Will Holdaway

It’s the halfway point of the season. We’ve played 23 games and are 23 points (not to mention 25 goals) off the sole automatic promotion spot. Chesterfield and one of the other eight teams above us in the league have a game in hand. If you’d have offered us that in August before a ball was kicked, we’d have told you to fuck off. We’d have told you to stop being silly…even to behave yourself.


What would we have taken? I’d have taken second place to someone who’s not Chesterfield, a two-point deficit, a game in hand, and a superior goal difference. That’s what I’d have taken after all our summer signings and the party atmosphere before the innovative nobody-in-midfield strategy was unveiled at Southend, who are really the subject of this week’s blog.


We think we’ve got it bad, but the goings on at Roots Hall, home of Southend United, scene of our second-most miserable defeat of the season, should cause us all a little bit of worry and even anger.


Southend, depleted by injury and a transfer embargo imposed in August, could name only one substitute for their home fixture against Bromley. Then they lost their keeper, David Martin, to injury, so Gus Scott-Morris, the right-back, went in the nets. Scott-Morris had himself been the subject of a long period of medical treatment early in the match after crashing into the advertising hoardings.


All accounts say that Southend defended the Alamo with great credit but ended up losing 1-2, which was the same result as the Alamo all those years ago.


Southend are already team of the year, and I couldn’t believe it when Vanarama, the sponsors of the National League, didn’t name the entire 12-man squad in the Non-League Team of the Week. Joke verdict from people who don’t know what they’re talking about.


Vanarama – or at least their by-numbers social media folk – compounded their oversight by lauding the visiting Bromley team and their manager for being the first to defeat Southend at Roots Hall since September, as if this was just a normal fixture played in the normal way.


Also last Saturday, Tom Lockyer, the captain of Premier League Luton Town, suffered his second cardiac arrest on the field in six months. Just saying.


The Southend players shouldn’t be paying the penalty – shouldn’t be taking such massive risks – because they have a shit owner and the suits can’t sort themselves out. It’s one thing to “punish the fans” with a points deduction, but quite another to punish the players for the crapness of the suits.


Thousands of players criss-cross the country, and the regions of the country, every Saturday to bring us, the punters, the game that we love. They do it for their own reasons, the least of which at our level and below is the money they get. People say fans are the lifeblood of the game. That’s true when the players are superstars on unimaginable amounts of money, but at this level, the commitment of those young men is what defines the game, as it used to define all levels of football.


The National League and the Football Association need to address this situation pronto. Some say that the integrity of the competition is compromised because the longer the season goes on, the weaker the Southend squad becomes. They could’ve beaten us with fewer players than they had on the opening day, but we’re now 23 games later and attrition has taken its toll, so it’s possible that we could play them today and only lose 2-1 rather than 4-0.


But the integrity of the competition is nothing compared with the risk to the players. It’s unacceptable, and Vanarama should be using their clout behind the scenes to help the FA and National League sort their shit out instead of sending out tweets about how great Bromley are for beating a 12-man squad with no goalie.


Today’s Latics fixture is against a running track. In the return fixture earlier in the season, we scored a magnificent Unsworth-inspired 2-2 victory. We need three points today or we can forget about finishing 10th in the league this season.


Do what you want with the faith.

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