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Why Bilel Mohsni could be Paul Sturrock's biggest gamble as manager of Southend United
WHERE Southend United and Bilel Mohsni are concerned nothing should really ever come as a surprise.
But news that the fiery Frenchman has returned to Roots Hall for this afternoon’s game with Northampton Town has still come as a huge shock.
Both Mohsni and the club themselves publicly stated he would never play for Southend again.
Yet whispers about a possible comeback were first heard on Thursday night and ever since then I have been trying to make up my mind if it is the correct decision.
For from a playing point of view Mohnsi’s recall makes perfect sense.
Injuries to Chris Barker and Mark Phillips and a suspension to Ryan Cresswell have left Blues incredibly short of centre-backs and with Mohsni still on the club’s books why not use him.
Mickey Spillane looked uncomfortable in an unfamiliar defensive role against Cheltenham Town during the week and his enforced change of position also left the midfield short of quality.
But with Mohsni at the back, Spillane can revert to playing in the centre of the park and the spine of the side suddenly looks much stronger.
However, that is looking at everything in an ideal scenario, which has often not been the case for Mohsni in south-east Essex.
In the space of two seasons, he was shown 18 yellow and four red cards and aggravated team-mates with his behaviour and ill discipline which many of them saw as also being unprofessional.
What frustrated them even further were that his actions were tolerated while they were forced to adhere to a strict code of a conduct.
That caused problems in the dressing room and led to several bust ups, most notably against Leyton Orient, Oldham Athletic and Morecambe.
All of those threatened the Frenchman’s future before he was eventually forgiven and worked his way back in to the first team where he became a firm fans’ favourite.
The adulation he received would also antagonise the rest of the squad and bringing Mohsni back runs the risk of something similar happening again.
But only two of the expected starting line-up for this afternoon’s game have played with Mohsni before so they will have no preconceived ideas and there is also no indication on how long the 25-year-old might be staying.
If things did start to go wrong and the dressing room unsettled, then Mohsni could be let go when the injured and suspended players return.
Therefore rather than the Frenchman’s temperament, it could well be his fitness that is the biggest concern.
Mohsni has not started a game since Blues were beaten by Crewe Alexandra in the play-offs last May and his five substitute appearances while on loan at Ipswich Town earlier on this season added up to a total of just 37 minutes.
He is subsequently short of match sharpness, especially at centre-back where he is expected to play later today.
His last game in that role came almost two years ago and his expected recall against Northampton is therefore a huge gamble by Sturrock.
It is arguably the biggest risk of his entire stint in the Roots Hall hot seat and will end up being a huge masterstroke or a huge mistake.
But, whatever way it goes, plenty of drama is guaranteed because that’s Southend United and that’s very much Bilel Mohsni too.