SIMON Cox insists he is leaving Southend United with a heavy heart.

The 32-year-old striker has left the Shrimpers by mutual consent after scoring 45 goals in 172 appearances.

But Cox – who will now head to Australia after signing for Western Sydney Wanderers – will always look back on his spell at Blues with great fondness.

“Southend gave me a platform when I wasn’t playing at Reading to come and get back to loving football again,” said Cox.

“I did that while I was there and I’ll look back on my time at the club fondly.

“It was a very eventful three and a bit years too.”

Cox was top scorer in all three of his full seasons with the Shrimpers.

But it was a mixed spell for the team.

“We narrowly missed out on the play-offs in my first year, it was an up and down season in the second and then we just stayed up in the third,” said Cox.

“Avoiding relegation was a big thing in the end but this season didn’t get off to a good start.

“It ends up I’m leaving with a heavy heart in the end because they gave so much and I’ve really enjoyed my time there.”

Blues are currently struggling towards the foot of the League One table and seem destined to be relegated this season.

And Cox feels the players have to take their share of the responsibility – despite there also being other factors in the club’s downfall.

“We’ve had some rotten luck,” said Cox.

“Chris Powell went in a completely different direction to what was the norm at Southend.

“He got rid of a few lads and tried to replace them with younger lads.

“Maybe that hasn’t worked out how it should’ve but the game is getting younger and that’s the way it will go.

“Getting rid of them all at the same time wasn’t probably the ideal way to go about it.

“But we all have to accept that and we all have to accept responsibility.

“It doesn’t help when you get three ACL injuries at the same time, Harry Kyprianou does his Achilles and Harry Lennon breaks his leg.

“It was difficult but we got the right result in the end to stay up after beating Sunderland.

“But really it was probably only really papering over the cracks. “

Blues stayed up on goal difference with Cox doing more than most to keep the club in League One having hit the back of the net 17 times.

The striker’s efforts deservedly saw him named player of the year.

But things have not got better for the Shrimpers and Cox feels that is down to a variety of factors.

“It’s a number of things really,” said Cox.

“Kevin Bond kept us up. He came in just before pre-season but pre-season probably wasn’t great.

“We probably weren’t fit enough and we didn’t really have a settled side as we were still bringing players in.

“When Kevin left Gary Waddock came in and Gary didn’t know how long he was going to be involved for.

“Sol came in and there are so many things it could be blamed on but ultimately as players we have to take a lot of responsibility as well because we’re the ones who go out there.”

However, Cox continued to give his all and enjoyed a good relationship with Blues’ fans.

“I really enjoyed playing at the stadium in front of the fans who were always really good to me,” said Cox.

“I hope I leave with them having some fond memories of me.”

Those fans also voted Cox into Echosport’s team of the decade.

And Cox felt it was a nice way to sign off with the Shrimpers.

“It was a nice way to go out and I didn’t really expect it,” said Cox.

“I saw everyone doing the team of the decade but I didn’t know too much about the lads who had played before me.

“In the last three years I did OK and got some goals so I thought maybe I might have a chance.

“But to get in team of the decade shows I was doing something right.”

However, Cox found himself out of favour with Blues boss Campbell in recent weeks.

And that led to the striker moving on.

“I’m not going to be one who just sits there and picks up a pay packet,” said Cox.

“I’m not that type of person. I’d rather leave and play somewhere else.

“For me, I could always see the manager was going in a different direction but that’s fine.

“I’ve never had an issue with that but I’ve never been happy not playing and it’s very difficult to be sat at home watching the scores come in hoping the lads are doing well.

“It’s tough but it’s football and professional sport.”

Cox is now looking forward to a new challenge in Australia.

But he will continue to track the Shrimpers’ progress.

“I’ll always be checking the Southend scores,” said Cox.

“I made a lot of good friends at the football club, behind the scenes as well.

“I’ll stay in contact with everyone and if I’m back before the last game of the season I’ll come back and see everybody too.

“Southend gave me so much I’m not leaving and shutting the door on the whole episode.

“I’m going with an eye on what’s happening and maybe one day I’ll come back and do some coaching.

“The chairman has already said I’ll always be welcomed back with open arms and that’s nice to hear.”