STAN Collymore may have lined up in an FA Cup final during his career, played for England, Liverpool and his boyhood heroes Aston Villa but it was with Southend United that the striker was at his happiest.

Collymore, who is regarded by most Shrimpers fans as the club’s best ever player, bagged 18 goals in 33 games during the second half of the 1992/93 season to keep the club in the second tier of English football.

And, speaking exclusively to Echosport, Collymore revealed his spell at Roots Hall was the most enjoyable of his whole career.

“Without any doubt, Southend was the happiest six months I had in my career,” said the 46-year-old.

“Those six months actually felt like six years because it was all very fresh and new.

“But I honestly don’t have one negative memory of Southend.

“It was the happiest time of my career because it was so old school.”

Collymore joined Blues, initially on loan from Crystal Palace, in November 1992.

And it did not take long for him to show off his skills to the Shrimpers faithful as scored twice on his debut in a 3-1 win against Notts County at Roots Hall - despite his pre-match fears.

Echo: Happy at Blues - Stan Collymore

“I can remember being really nervous driving in for my debut because I was suddenly the top man,” said Collymore.

“This wasn’t me coming on after 70 minutes anymore and I remember thinking it was all on me now.

“It was a very low crowd because there were protests on the day about the chairman Vic Jobson but I scored two goals and that settled me down straight away.”

Collymore continued to impress but Blues struggled to pick up results under the management of Colin Murphy who put his squad through some interesting training sessions.

“Murph used to have us playing cricket in training,” recalled Collymore.

“We had catching sessions for hand eye co-ordination and all sorts but when I met with him to discuss the move he told me he had worked with Mick Harford and John Fashanu in the past and was telling me about players like Steve Tilson, Andy Ansah and Brett Angell.

“But as soon as he said he wanted me to play centre forward that was it for me because it was where I wanted to play, not on the wing like I was at Palace.”

Collymore quickly established himself as a firm fans favourite and his goals fired Blues to the fifth round of the FA Cup where they faced Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

The Shrimpers suffered a 2-0 defeat against the Owls, who were flying high in the Premier League, but the game remains Collymore’s favourite for the club.


Hero - Stan Collymore in front of the North Bank at Roots Hall

“I can remember all my goals for Southend but my best single memory was the fifth round of the FA Cup at Hillsborough,” said Collymore.

“I had a goal disallowed that should never have been disallowed quite early on in the game.

“But we more than held our own against them.

“I can vividly remember looking up at the start of the game and seeing thousands and thousands of yellow balloons behind the goal.

“It was amazing because it was the first time I had ever played in front of a large crowd but there were some great memories after that as well.”

Those highlights came after Barry Fry had replaced Murphy in charge and, with Collymore running riot, the new boss pulled off an incredible escape act to stop the Shrimpers suffering relegation.

“Barry was another big character and staying up was a huge achievement that year because everyone thought we were down,” said Collymore.

“I remember the West Ham game where there nearly 13,000 fans at Roots Hall and the Luton game on the last day of the season when the fans ran on the pitch at the end and took everything but my underpants.

“I could just see how much it meant to them and it was a special time.”

Collymore left to join Nottingham Forest at the end of the season in a deal which eventually saw the Shrimpers receive a club record £3.57 million.


On international duty - Stan Collymore with Glenn Hoddle in 1997

Spells at Liverpool, Aston Villa, Fulham, Leicester City, Bradford and Real Oviedo followed before he opted to hang up his boots in 2001.

But it was with Southend where Collymore seemed most at home.

“At Southend there was just an earthiness about it all that was a million miles away from where we are now in football,” said Collymore.

“I remember Dave Martin coming in and selling clothes as a sideline to his football career because he wasn’t earning that much money “The lads were all great and so was the training.

“They are days I will never forget.”


STAN Collymore enjoyed a special connection with the Shrimpers supporters during his successful spell at Roots Hall.

And when he left he received a letter from arguably Blues most famous fan of all, Alison Moyet.

The singer came to prominence as half of the duo Yazoo during the 1980s and was quick to contact Collymore when he left to join Nottingham Forest in the summer of 1993.

“When I left Southend I remember getting a letter to my house from Alison Moyet,” recalled Collymore.

“I have no idea how she knew my address but she said ‘you will forever be in our house be our Stanley. All the very best and hope to see you soon’.


Famous fan - Alison Moyet

"It was amazing but the Southend fans have always been like that to me. The supporters really appreciated what I did and I really appreciated their support.”

And those fans continued to back Collymore throughout his career.

“I remember going into the dressing room on cup final day when Man United played Liverpool and when I made my England debut against Japan,” said Collymore.

“We used to get telegrams delivered and on both days mine were from groups of Southend fans telling me they wished me well and to enjoy the day. I wasn’t with Southend for very long but I felt a real connection with the fans.”


STAN Collymore has lifted the lid on how close he came to returning to Southend United as manager.

Collymore was heavily linked with the position in 2003 when the Shrimpers were struggling to stay in the Football League.

But the Blues legend has revealed he was keen to help in any way possible and admitted the club were right to pick his former Roots Hall team-mate Steve Tilson for the position.

“I met with Ron Martin at at hotel in St Albans and said to him it wasn’t about me being manager, I just wanted to help in any way I could,” recalled Collymore.

“If that was helping to get the club sold, being an ambassador or whatever, I just wanted to be involved.


Blues brothers - Echosport's Chris Phillips with Stan Collymore

“I then went down to the club and met the board members.

“I put a few ideas to them but in the end they went for Tilly who was the right person at the right time.

“He added huge stability and definitely has the club at heart.

“But it wasn’t about being manager I just wanted to help because I remember going on the forum and everyone was in turmoil.

“There were a lot of comings and goings and a lot of promises not being kept and I just wanted to try and help things get better.”


STAN Collymore is thrilled to see Phil Brown rejuvenating Southend United - but has less fond memories of the current Shrimpers boss from his own playing career.

Collymore faced Brown when Nottingham Forest took on Bolton Wanderers at the City Ground back in March 1994.

But their battle did not last long as Collymore was shown a red card after an off the ball incident with the now Blues boss.


Phil Brown - clashed with Stan Collymore in his playing career

“I remember it well,” said Collymore.

“I had a six week spell out with a hamstring tear and wasn’t fit enough to start so I was on the bench.

“There was a big hullabaloo about me coming back and there was a full house at the City Ground.

“I came on, scored with my first touch within 30 seconds and the place went bananas.

“But two minutes later there was a throw in and Browny was behind me.

“He reached round and gave me a little pinch round the rib area.

“I threw my arm and caught him in the chest but he went down holding his face with that permatan of his and I got sent off.

“I always tell him that was his forte but of course I’m glad to see Southend doing well and I hope the club can keep progressing.”

Since Brown took control Blues have won promotion via the League Two play-offs and are currently sixth in the League One standings after beating high-flying Scunthorpe United 3-1 on Saturday.

However, Collymore still dreams of seeing the Shrimpers back in the Championship and believes the club has the potential to make it happen.


Good times - Stan Collymore scores for Forest at Manchester United

“Southend has a great catchment area,” said the former striker.

“It runs from where it is right along the A127 and the outskirts of London where I know quite a few Hammers man who also like to go and see Southend.

“I know there have been broken promises in the past but with the right structure and organisation Southend can definitely go on a run.

“The glass ceiling would be the Championship where I would love to see Southend again one day.

“I’m always looking at their results and I might just forgive Browny for that red card if he gets Southend another promotion!”


STEVE Tilson believes Stan Collymore is the best player to ever line up for Southend United.

Tilson enjoyed a club record 632 games with the Shrimpers as player and then manager.

And he has never seen anyone as talented as Collymore take to the field for Blues.

“Stan was 100 per cent the best player I have ever seen at Southend,” said Tilson.


FA Cup finalist - Stan Collymore in action for Liverpool

“He had everything.

“He was good in the air, he was powerful, he was quick and had two good feet.

“He could score all kinds of goals and I think he must have been a nightmare for any centre halves he was playing against.

“We knew straight away how good Stan was. It showed in training and in the first couple of games as well.

“He was someone I always got on really well with and was a really good pro when he was at Southend.

“He got on with everything before going on to bigger and better things.”

However, Tilson still believes Collymore could have achieved even more in the game.

“I know Stan got two or three caps for England but with the talent he had he should really have gone on to win far more,” said Tilson.

“Freddy Eastwood was exceptional when I was manager but Stan is definitely number one.

“He was a different class.”


AS a fan and reporter I have been watching Southend United for 27 years now and nobody comes close to matching Stan Collymore as the Shrimpers best player during that lengthy period.

When he lined up for Blues I was only 10 but I can still vividly recall his stunning range of goals, his pace and power and ability to create sublime moments of magic from virtually any area of the pitch.


Star - Stan Collymore

The only slight problem with Stan was that being quite small at the time I often struggled to see when he got the ball because fans - including my dad - would instantly move to the edge of their seats or stand up.

That perfectly sums up the excitement Collymore created and I very much doubt we will ever see anyone quite like him at Roots Hall again.