PAUL Byrne insists he will never forget his spell at Southend United, mainly due to his former manager Ronnie Whelan.

Byrne teamed up with Whelan at Roots Hall back in 1995.

But the ex winger was unable to build on a promising start with the Shrimpers, something Whelan still jokes about to this day.

“I still see Ronnie on a regular basis and he’s always telling me I’m the one who got him the sack at Southend,” laughed Byrne, 47.

“But I had a good time at the club and I enjoyed being there.

“I thought I’d done as much as I was going to do with Celtic so when Ronnie came calling I decided to leave.

“Ronnie was an ex Irish international and we had played and trained together in the national squad so I thought it would be a good move for me.

“Ronnie told me he was putting together a good squad too.

“Mike Marsh was there and I thought if we went well I could maybe go on to one of the top clubs down that way.

“It was a small compact ground with great supporters and we were flying high at one point when I first signed but the wheels came off a bit after that.”

Byrne, who made 96 appearances for Blues, scored five goals in his first season at the club as Whelan’s side finished 14th in what is now known as the Championship.

But the following season was one to forget as the Shrimpers finished bottom of the table amid rumours of a drinking culture at the club.

However, Byrne felt all clubs were similar to Blues back then.

“That was the culture at the time and if you went to any club in our league or lower then you would have seen everyone enjoyed a few pints after a match on a Saturday,” said Byrne.

“When you’re flying high people don’t notice as much but when it’s starting to go pear shaped people scrutinise what you’re doing off the pitch more and that’s what happened at Southend.”

But Byrne is fully aware of how things have changed.

“Back then you were stopping at fish and chip shops on the way to games to order what you were going to pick up after it,” said Byrne.

“You would have a few cans on the bus as well but it’s completely changed now.

“Nowadays it’s a business and clubs are owned by multi millionaires.

“There’s nutritionists and psychologists and if you can’t make it nowadays then you’re really struggling.”

The current Blues side have certainly been struggling in recent times.

And Byrne has been less than impressed by manager Sol Campbell.

“I know Sol Campbell is the manager now but I’m not sure how much he fancies it because I saw an interview with him when he couldn’t even get the name of the team right,” said Byrne.

“That’s just unforgivable in my eyes.”

Byrne still keeps an eye on Blues’ results and remains involved in football himself.

“I’m part of the Celtic players association now,” said Byrne, who is based in Dublin.

“There’s Frank McAvennie, Alan Thompson, John Hartson and Stiliyan Petrov and we do a lot of travelling.

“We were in Thailand recently and Philadpehia just before that.

“There’s legends games coming up in Dublin and Belfast plus trips to New York, South Africa and Australia.

“It’s good and I do a radio show with Ken Doherty the snooker player over here which I really enjoy.”

But Byrne was not the only member of his family to play professional football.

“My son Curtis had a decent career,” said Byrne.

“He won three League of Ireland titles with Dundalk and is now playing in Wales.

“He’s 30 and I have a grandson coming soon so I’ve got a lot to look forward to and I’d definitely love to come back to Southend to see everyone again.”