BELIEVE it or not there had been slight signs of optimism for Southend United heading into Saturday’s clash with Oxford United.

Blues had beaten AFC Wimbledon in the Trophy in their last outing and had since enjoyed a break in proceedings to allow Sol Campbell quality time on the training ground to get his principles across to his players.

However, that theory was gone within 60 seconds at the weekend as the Shrimpers conceded inside the opening minute on their way to suffering a dire 4-0 defeat at Roots Hall.

The wretched result continued Southend’s season from hell and means they have now conceded 50 goals in a season quicker than any other Football League side since 1966.

Oxford exposed those defensive frailties at the weekend but, in truth, they were gifted the opening two goals.

The first came when young defender Richard Taylor played a misplaced pass across his own penalty area straight into the path of his namesake Matt who gleefully made the most of the opportunity to put the visitors in front.

Despite the glaring error, it was hard not to feel some sympathy for 19-year-old Taylor who was making his League debut and was immediately consoled by his team-mates for the mistake.

But Taylor seemed to be following orders when attempting to play out from the back as he was not the only one looking to move the ball around Blues’ box.

In fact, the trend continued for Oxford’s second goal as Timothee Dieng also looked to start a move from deep – only for his pass to be collected by the visitors’ James Henry who moved forward before sending a low 20 yard shot into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

Now, playing out from the back is an approach that in an ideal world every team would be able to achieve as, when it is done successfully, it pleases the purists and is very easy on the eye.

However, it is also very much horses for courses and can only really be introduced if you have the players who are able to make it work but that is certainly not the case at Southend United right now.

Blues have been able to triumph just once in 18 League games so far this season and along the way have conceded more goals than any other team in the country.

With that in mind, it would seemingly make sense for the Shrimpers to try and get the ball as far away as possible from their own goal and not add to their problems by bringing in a style of play which is clearly not within their capabilities.

Perhaps that lesson was learnt at the weekend and Campbell may be looking for an alternative approach.

But the former England international has now been beaten in his first four League games in charge and is already facing a number of headaches.

Campbell has stuck with a 5-3-2 formation for all of his games in charge but Blues seem unable to get enough men forward in the system and have rarely looked like scoring.

A return to 4-4-2 has been mooted on social media, but Campbell is short of options, especially at the heart of the back four.

With John White, Joe Shaughnessy, Liam Ridgewell and Harry Lennon all unavailable for a variety of reasons, Campbell has moved Dieng into the back five.

But would Dieng’s defensive capabilities be good enough in a flat back four or would Taylor be ready to be risked after his difficulties at the weekend?

Further forward, Campbell is short of wingers with Layton Ndukwu, who has failed to impress since signing on loan from Leicester, and Jason Demetriou, who is more commonly a right-back, perhaps his only real options for the right flank.

However, the stark reality right now is that whoever gets selected, the Shrimpers are just not good enough.

The results speak volumes and so too do the number of goals being conceded as Blues have now let in four or more goals in eight games already this season.

Subsequently, just five points have been collected from a possible 54 and the Shrimpers are already 11 points from safety with a far inferior goal difference to those around them.

Relegation therefore already seems a foregone conclusion and it is tough to approach matches with any kind of enthusiasm at this stage.

This is the worst things have been at Blues in at least 20 years and it will take quite some time to put it right.