TRY telling John Wilmot that the romance of the FA Cup is dead.
The 49-year-old Blues fan and his 16-year-old son Michael will be making a 13,704-mile journey from Newman in the north-western Australian outback to see Phil Brown’s side take on Hull City in the fourth round of the competition this weekend.
And Wilmot cannot wait to see the Shrimpers in action for the first time.
“I have been trying to make this happen since the mid-1990s and I’m so excited about coming over,” said Wilmot, who also intends to watch Blues against Dagenham & Redbridge and Newport County next week.
“I have got close on several occasions, but a death in the family or a sickness, or lack of funds has prevented it from happening.
“But this time my 16-year-old saved some money from an internship, so him and my wife have worked together to make it possible for my Christmas present with my son footing the bill – how awesome is that?
“There is nothing like seeing your team live and in some ways I don’t really feel the journey is complete until I sit at the Hall and yell ‘Up the Blues’.”
The Australian has been a fan of the Shrimpers since 1994 after deciding he wanted to support what he considered to be a “real” football team and not one playing in the Premier League.
He opted to follow the fortunes of Blues after being impressed by their fans on internet forums.
Newman tracks the team’s progress online and wakes up in the early hours of the morning to listen to live commentary of their matches.
“I decided on the Shrimpers and have never looked back,” said Wilmot. “I lived in Malawi, in Africa, for 10 years, working in community development.
“There was a lot of sadness working with people in extreme poverty and getting on to fans’ forums like Shrimperzone brought me great relief.
“Just reading all the stories about when folks went to watch Blues made me laugh my guts out and really got me into it.
“It would cost me about £5 a session on the internet and I must have spent hundreds of pounds over the years but it has all been worth it because Southend still brings me endless hours of pleasure.
“I’m always on the club website and on the Echo one as well as that’s the best way of keeping up to date with what’s going on.”
But his support of the Shrimpers often confuses Wilmot’s neighbours who prefer to support the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.
“Many people support Premier League sides round here so it’s not an uncommon question to ask who I support, but when I say Southend United they often laugh and ask who they are,” said Wilmot.
“Most people get it after a while and it’s certainly a great sports topic starter.
“But I wouldn’t have it any other way and I couldn’t be happier about coming over to see the team play, it really is a dream come true.
“I just hope the games don’t get called off.”