Southend United mid-season review

southendThe Football Lab interviewed Southend United fan Callum Connolly. You can follow Callum on Twitter @IcardiAndKoke

Southend are 5th in the table, though many fans are unhappy with the football on show, and only 4 teams have scored fewer goals. How would you sum up the first half of the season?

Following the play off loss to Burton, we were worried we would lose many players. The likes of Bentley, Leonard, and Coker had all had brilliant seasons and were and still are better than the level they are playing at. Thankfully, we managed to keep hold of the trio and despite losses in defence, Luke Prosser and Cian Bolger have started to form a stronger partnership after a shaky start for the latter player. In my eyes, fifth at this point in the season should be considered as something of a success. Brown has again shown some good work in the transfer market, David Worrall has been arguably one of the best players in League 2 this season. The football can’t always be pretty especially in this division, where teams tend to be rough and play the long ball game. In relation to the lack of goals, we are missing the clinical edge to our team- maybe Elliot Lee would have provided that, we hope to re-sign him come January.

You’ve not won many games that directly follow a defeat in this calendar year. Does this point to a lack of character in the dressing room?

Our players are passionate and have the drive, but we seem to move in patches; a run of brilliant results followed by some poor ones. It’s hard to figure out the reason why, but I don’t believe there’s a lack of character. A number of the starting XI were involved in the play off heartache in May and still pick themselves up, as the management did also, to aim for promotion again.

Daniel Bentley is arguably one of the best young goalkeepers in the Football League. How far does his potential stretch?

Phil Brown said sometime last year that Dan will be England no.1 one day. He was scouted by the U21 scouts this season but unfortunately didn’t make the cut but I have no doubt if he maintains his performances he will achieve great things- he deserves to play at a higher level if Southend do not get promoted not one fan should blame him for leaving, albeit with heavy hearts. He’s already one of the best in the Football League, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the Premier League and in the England set up in five years time.

You’ve struggled to break the more defensive teams down this season. What needs to be done to address that problem?

That’s not true in some cases, Northampton removed their attacking players in Mohamed, Hackett and Toney as a game plan against us and we won the game 2-0. It’s difficult for any side to break down a team that puts more or less ten players behind the ball but we have beaten Accrington, Stevenage and Hartlepool, sides who would normally be defensive against better sides and we are fifth, so that problem is slowly improving but there’s work to be done yet.

Jack Payne looks a talented midfielder. Are you pleased he has had a chance in the side?

Definitely. We were gunning for Payney to get his chance in the side and were delighted when he grabbed it with two hands. Puzzlingly,  he was removed from the team for a number of games but has been restored since and started the 10 games needed for an automatic extension in his contract so the fans and the player himself is delighted. He’s another academy product like Dan Bentley so we hope to keep that going with the likes of Jason Williams and Jack Bridge, who have impressed out on loan.

You’ve not got a prolific goalscorer in the side. Is that something Phil Brown will look to change in the transfer market?

As I mentioned earlier we had signed Elliot Lee, a forward from West Ham, that was regarded as quite a talent but unfortunately he was injured in training in the first couple of hours so had to return back to his parent club, but Brown has mentioned talks of Lee returning, and Jason Williams deserves a chance after having his loan at Chelmsford cut short. He could well be given a chance at Dagenham tomorrow.

In the summer, you said automatic promotion was a realistic aim. Do you still think so?

Of course. Fifth after Boxing Day is a comfortable position in the table, we’re only five points off the top with the top 3 tied on 43 points. As long as we manage to keep hold of our star players in the window, add Elliot Lee, with a bit a luck and with the avoiding of injuries a place in automatic positions will be ours. We certainly won’t be mid table, as you predicted!