Season 1, Leg 18 - Southend United PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike   
Monday, 24 November 2008 11:35

Southend United v Oldham Athletic - League One

Roots Hall, Southend

Saturday 22nd November 2008, 15:00 k.o.

Great ground

Tuesday night was disappointing to say the least.  Another poor performance and defeat against opposition that we should be dispatching with ease, thanks to the usual story of poor finishing.

That’s right sports fans, the ernieflag darts team let you down once again and slipped to defeat against Len and Norm in the pub.

And all after watching Latics get knocked out of the cup as well – no giant killing exploits for us this year, thank you very much. We’re now “concentrating on the league”, if they weren’t already doing that.  While listening to some fool shout “shoot!” whenever anyone got the ball within seventy yards of goal, I thought that maybe I should have been concentrating more at the ticket office before buying tickets for Southend.  And it’s my turn to drive.

Just the 498 mile round trip for the honour of watching our heroes this week – the second furthest drive on the tour, should the England lads decide against taking the car to Kazakhstan.  Good job there’s a co-pilot with us.  Regular visitors to this site will be aware of Cheltenham’s German car/German man/bonnet incident at the services and with this in mind, all fluid levels – Mark’s lager content aside - were checked in advance to avoid that sort of thing happening again.

There was very little of note to report from the drive down, apart from the usual intellectual conversation.  Sheffield United fans at the services - “They don’t have M&S Food shops in Yorkshire – they can’t believe the price for an Egg Roll”.   Some chaps heading for Twickers for the rugger - tally ho! – and why they don’t drink beer on the minibus, preferring a cup of Earl Grey instead as it’s a more civilised sport than ours. How we wouldn’t last five minutes doing Latics World commentary instead of Roy, due to swearing.  That sort of thing.  Once near Southend, our driver ( managed to perform a lap of a roundabout, much to the amusement of Rachel and Mark.  Cue the abuse for the next twenty minutes, which should have been enough to ensure that it didn’t happen again.  Which of course it did.

Mark put a call in to Rick, who advised we could park opposite the pub.  Not first time we couldn’t, but eventually landed it after a few tours of the car park.

The chosen boozer

This week’s pub was “The Varsity”, which already contained a bunch of Latics fans in various stages of refreshment.  There was a lot to like about this pub – plenty of seating and tv screens everywhere (including projectors on virtually every wall).  Today’s game was St. Mirren vs. Celtic from the “SPL”, and the standard of play was high.  Will Haining was lining up for the Buddies, adding a bit of interest for us. The also had a decent and surprisingly reasonably priced menu for a spot of lunch.

We ordered at the bar, stuck the flag on the table and followed the game while we waited.  And waited.  Mark had a polite word with the waiter, who ignored him.  Ten minutes later, another quiet word.  Followed by a less polite one, after which the waiter flounced off and slammed the kitchen door.  What a guy.  Lucky for us then that food order was not far behind.  Not all of it, to be fair, but it was a start.  After I’d cleaned up the pie, we were still a chip-free zone.  The bar manager seemed a nice chap – Mark (by now displaying a skill for moaning matched only by Main Stand season ticket holders) had a chat and after some apologising returned with news that there would a free round of drinks to make up for the wait.  At which point the world’s best waiter turned up with the chips, followed by the manager with more chips. A clean shaven man called Beardy lifted the bonus chips for his table, and tried to nip in on the free round.  A good effort, but a failure.

Before we left, a local tramp came over and cleared the table for us.  It was “not really his job”, but he did it anyway. He had to sit down to be able to stack pint glasses correctly and then made a second visit for the plates.  Presumably that earned him three fingers of Buckfast.

It was now time to walk up to the ground – 0.8 miles according Sir Sat of Nav, 0.9 if you take the roundabout twice and 1.5 if you followed the group of merry Latics from the pub.  We passed the away pub from last year, which looked like a war zone.

Outside the club shop, we bumped into the Dorans (last seen exiting “The Fish House” chippy, sadly not on fire but the staff told him that the pub had been). Margaret had already bumped into something else, as she was sporting a bit of a cut on the chin.  We joked that she’d been causing “bother” at the pub, but she’d really taken a Ronaldo-esque dive outside a pub.  There had been bother, but not that kind They’d been in the Blue Boar pub with seven or so other Latics fans.  Eager to tell of his mistreatment to the few hundred people that will read this, Terry “PM’d” me with the story…..

“Following our routine of the previous season, when Latics had won 1-0, we had been in the Blue Boar pub after lunch in the Fish House. We were with seven other Latics supporters enjoying a few drinks, when the sparsely occupied pub was visited by the Greater Manchester Police Liaison Officer and his counterpart from the Southend Police.. These visits are customary at each away match, as the Police intelligence is used to pick out any known trouble makers. On this occasion there was a lengthy humorous discussion with the Police and the local Officer advised the two girls, who were staying overnight in Southend, on the places to avoid for their own safety and on the best places to go for their enjoyment.

After the Police had left and one of the Latics supporters went to the bar to order the third round of drinks, he was told that he could not be served as he was an away fan. The doormen explained that the prohibition on the nine Oldham fans was on Police instructions.

One of the Southend locals sitting in the pub was so embarrassed at this insult to the dignity of two pensioners, three girls and four men enjoying a quiet drink, that he offered to get the drinks for them, which we said was a nice gesture but missed the point that away fans were not welcome.

So we took our trade to the Nelson pub in North Road and when I told the G M Police Liaison Officer inside the stadium about what had happened after the Police had left the Blue Boar, the Officer was flabbergasted and said that the Police had not issued any instructions against away fans.”

The country’s really going down the pan, isn’t it?

With the flow of blood now stemmed with a pile of Rachel’s tissues we headed for the away end, passing the sign outside the main entrance.  Rachel reminded us to have a photo taken; otherwise it would have needed to be a Photoshop job.  As usual, she took it in order to avoid being on it.

We were now ten yards from the turnstile.  Thanks to a stupid, pointless gate, it was a five-minute walk via a car park, a street and another car park to get into the air raid shelter.  Hold on, it was the away stand.  Bit of a throwback, this ground.  Our favourite bit was the “Family Room”, which is the tea bar with some tables and chairs in – kind of like the canteen in a rubbish factory.

The teams were already on the field as we slung the flag over the front three rows of seats and retired to the back of the stand to enjoy the first half action.  Southend had the better of it, including the missing of a sitter, hitting the post then having one disallowed for offside.  That makes it sound quite exciting, but do not be misled – it was one of the poorer halves of the season.

At the start of the second half, the lights in the away end were switched off.  I don’t know why.  Whether or not Alan Hardy gets a cost saving idea from that one is open to question.  The game started to pick up a bit; Byfield headed one wide, before Francis got a cross in for them and Walker volleyed it in from a couple of yards.

Fortunately, Latics are made of stronger stuff than some people give them credit for and began to get into it a bit.  There were a few decent chances, with Chris Taylor in particular having a decent game.  A header was tipped over, resulting in a corner.

Corners and us don’t usually get on.  Mark tends to advise that it’s a good time to go to the toilet, as you won’t miss anything.  This one was put out for another corner, then another.  Andy Liddell put the third on Taylor’s head and it was level.

Some of the 200-odd punters behind the net couldn’t believe what they’d seen – maybe the low-level lighting was playing tricks.   This gave rise to a chant of “we’ve only scored from a corner” and the lads and ladies at the back began to have a bit more fun – a few Ernie songs got a bit of an airing, along with some more mischievous ones concerning Sean Gregan.  Don’t worry Greegs fans, nothing libellous.

Besides, there were more interesting matters on the pitch.  From a Jones free kick on the left, Byfield flicked on and Lee Hughes scored with a shot that seemed to take an age to reach the net.  Splendid stuff.

The home team never really threatened after that.  The refereeing left a bit to be desired.  Throwing ball into ground = booking.  Getting in the linesman’s face and shouting nasty things at him = not even a telling off.  Work that out Keith Hackett.

To liven things up, Southend decided to bring out Elton John to take part in a spot of stewarding.  A man that we met in the pub stood up to serenade him with “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”, while the rest of us shouted for him to give us a song.  Not sure he knew any.   He spent more time watching the game than the crowd, which is poor stewarding in my opinion of crowd safety procedures– he should get a proper job, as they say.

The final whistle was met with cheers from the away end – an unexpected three points on a long trip is always welcome.  More to the point, the new shirt  finally saw a win and avoided being consigned to the same part of the floor as the original lucky shirt.  Magically, the lights came back on, allowing us to leave in safety and find that they hadn’t opened the flipping gate and would need to walk around again.

We then got stuck into the four-hour drive, enjoying the 606 phone-in (complete with moaning Bolton fan).  Confidence may not have been high enough to give a big “come on!!” to Walsall as we passed them on the M6, but this was still another pleasant day out watching Latics.

Even that City fan did the business in the boxing.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 11 June 2011 20:54