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Chris Phillips: My views on Southend United
WRITING so soon after the heartbreaking play-off semi-final defeat to Crewe Alexandra, it is hard to feel positive about Southend United.
To come so close to automatic promotion and then to also narrowly lose out on a Wembley play-off final is extremely hard for anyone connected with the club.
But it has been a season of near misses for Blues.
They came close to making Wembley in the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and also missed out on visiting Liverpool in the third round of the FA Cup after losing 1-0 at Oldham Athletic.
It is, therefore, only natural to think and dream about what could – and perhaps should – have been for Southend this term.
However, once the wounds heal and the pain starts to subside it will become apparent there is actually plenty for the team to be proud of.
Blues ended the campaign with 83 points which was their highest tally in 21 years and that demonstrated the immense progress which has been made in the last two seasons.
After all, when Paul Sturrock first came to Roots Hall in the summer of 2010 he had just four players in his first team squad and inherited a club in real crisis.
The Scotsman was initially unable to make any transfers due to an embargo and was forced to work within very tight financial constraints.
Stockport County were in a similar situation at the time and have just finished the current campaign 16th in the Blue Square Premier.
That helps to underline the fine rebuilding job Sturrock has done since his arrival.
But, despite that, he is now receiving stick from a section of the club’s supporters who have questioned his direct style of play and tactics.
Many of them have spoken out since the play-off defeat and it is true that Sturrock has made some mistakes this season.
For me it was a huge error not to start with Neil Harris in the second leg against Crewe and there has been too much chopping and changing with different line-ups and varying systems this season.
Injuries, suspensions and lack of discipline also played a part in Blues falling out of the top three.
But to relieve Sturrock of his duties at this stage would be incredibly harsh.
He has put together a fine squad, which could not have come much closer to securing promotion.
But the fear is now how many of those players may look to leave during the summer.
Ryan Hall, Sean Clohessy, Mark Phillips and Anthony Grant are all likely to attract interest from elsewhere, with the latter two available on a free transfer.
However, the last thing Southend need is another spell of rebuilding ahead of a new season and that is why Sturrock should remain in charge for now.
He will know exactly where Blues need to strengthen, where they fell short and how they can avoid similar heartache next year.
Until then, disappointment and dejection will remain around Roots Hall.
But, although it may not feel like it right now, there is still plenty to be pleased about this season – despite the ultimate aim not being achieved.
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