NEIL Tolson holds both Southend United and Altrincham close to his heart but cannot believe his two former teams will meet this weekend.

Tolson scored 11 goals in 41 games for the Shrimpers between 1999 and 2001 and went on to become part of the backroom team at Altrincham following his retirement.

But the 48-year-old never envisaged the two clubs going head to head.

“It definitely surprises me Southend and Altrincham are in the same league now and playing each other,” said Tolson.

“Nothing against Altrincham at all but Southend are a big, big club with a huge fan base.

“It’s awful to see Southend struggling.

“I had two injury plagued seasons there but it is honestly still one of the first results I look for.

“I’m not sure of the reason why things have gone wrong.

“But if all the supporters get behind the players and the coaches I am sure the results will change around.”

And Tolson is hoping that can happen with his former Shrimpers team-mate Kevin Maher now in charge.

“I am really hopeful Kevin can turn it around and get the club back to where it belongs,” said Tolson.

“I honestly loved my time at Southend so I want to see them doing well again.

“It’s a great club with great supporters and it was a great place to live as well.

“My daughter was born there but the low point for me was it was where I had to retire because of injury.”

After hanging up his boots, Tolson started a career in coaching and that led to him spending several seasons with Altrincham.

“I was assistant manager for four plus years and caretaker for the last eight games of the last year there which ended in relegation from the Conference,” said Tolson.

“We made the play-offs twice while I was there and got promotion at the second attempt.

“It’s a great family club with good people to work for and I enjoyed my time there too.”

But, while Tolson will be keeping tabs on Saturday’s clash, he also has his own role to focus on further afield.

“I am now director of football for club called FC Wisconsin,” said Tolson.

“They’re based near Milwaukee in the USA.

“I’ve been out here since 2018 and it’s a role I really enjoy.”