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One step forward and another two back for Southend United
ONE step forward and another two back seems to be how it has gone for Southend United in the past few seasons.
And that is also the perfect way to sum up Blues’ current plight.
For, on the pitch, Paul Sturrock’s side have completely transformed their season and have surged up the table after going 10 games without defeat.
But, just as it seemed a push for promotion seemed possible, news emerges that the team have not yet received their November wages.
The players were due to pick up their salaries 10 days ago, however, when the Echo went to print last night, all of them were still waiting to be paid.
Fears of another winding up order from HMRC were quickly quashed by the club but that also raised fears about how fragile the club’s finances actually are.
Blues continue to scrape by on a seemingly hand to mouth existence and the players deserve real credit for how they have conducted themselves in such difficult circumstances.
Sturrock’s team have produced committed and credible performances in their last three matches, while at the same time wondering when they will be picking up their wages.
That has to have an effect on the mindset of the squad who, unlike their Premier League counterparts, are not due to receive mega amounts of money.
These are honest, hard-working professionals trying to support their families and pay the bills.
Such a scenario eventually worsened and had serious repercussions for the club back in 2010 when the team was relegated back into the basement division.
Yet, right now, the current crop of players remain in top form and their latest determined display came at Fleetwood Town on Saturday when Southend probably did enough to win the game.
Anthony Straker seemed unlucky to have an early effort ruled out for offside, before Marc Laird’s header was also chalked off by the officials.
And it was referee Darren Deadman who actually took centre stage at the Highbury Stadium after he appeared to raise two fingers towards the travelling Blues supporters during a break in play midway through the first half.
Pictorial evidence seems to suggest it probably happened too, but that may not be enough on its own for any kind of punishment to be handed out.
However, at the very least, Deadman should be asked to explain his actions by the Football Association, especially in this day and age where players and fans are regularly requested to respect the officials.
A bit of light-hearted banter is to be encouraged as part of the game but an official making a gesture to the crowd in a Football League match seems absurd and completely unprofessional.
Subsequently, if it is proven Deadman is guilty, then he should serve a lengthy suspension from the game.
But while that happens, Blues will be concentrating on continuing their good run of results and staying inside the top seven sides in League Two.
They will be looking for good results in three successive home games coming up before Christmas and will be hoping the off-the-field matters can be cleared up too.
Because for sustained success to be secured the club needs to be on stable foundations.
The trio of influential loan signings — Marc Laird, Britt Assombalonga and Tamika Mkandawire — also ideally need to be kept on to maintain the current strength of the starting line-up.
However, if Blues cannot afford to pay the players they currently have, how can they bring in new recruits?
And just how will that affect the remainder of what had been promising to be a successful season for Southend?