SOUTHEND United’s 2023/24 season has already had more dramatic twists and turns than a Hollywood blockbuster.

But, following Saturday’s well-deserved 2-0 at AFC Fylde, there is still an outside chance that the biggest surprise could yet be to come.

As somehow – despite everything that has happened off the field this season – Blues head into the final week of the regulation campaign still being able to make the play-offs.

It is still extremely unlikely that the Shrimpers will secure a top seven finish as they currently sit eighth in the standings, one point below Halifax Town who have two games in hand.

Aldershot, in ninth, are level on points with Blues with one game in hand.

But for Kevin Maher’s side to be anywhere near the play-offs is right up there with anything I have seen the Shrimpers achieve in my 35 years watching the club.

That is not recency bias talking or adding unheralded hype for extra attention either because I genuinely struggle to believe what the club has achieved in the past nine months.

Being honest I did not think Blues would even start the season and, once knowing they had, at that point I would have seen just avoiding relegation as a pleasing campaign.

Given how well things have gone it can be easy to forget the issues the club had to overcome.

And while looking back at the past is not always helpful it has to be done when accurately assessing this campaign.

Put simply, Blues had no pre-season.

Friendlies were cancelled due to a lack of players, the squad halted training together when waiting for wages and just two proper warm up matches were played.

An embargo remained in place for 16 months stopping new signings being made while also meaning those already at the club could not be offered new deals.

Alongside that came a 10 point deduction for not paying off HMRC before a deadline set by the National League but the issues did not stop there.

The small squad – which often contained just two substitutes – could not even wash or use the toilets at the training ground after water bills went unpaid.

And even now the club officially remains in the hands of controversial chairman Ron Martin.

The ongoing chaos has died down since the intervention of the consortium.

But before they became involved Blues continually found a way to work their way off the canvas.

Kevin Maher took centre stage where that was concerned along with the incredible support from the stands.

Their backing continued to show just how special the Shrimpers could and should be.

And those troubled times brought a real sense of togetherness among all those caring for the club’s future.

That has driven Blues forward this season and Saturday’s success at Fylde made it 15 matches unbeaten.

The match in truth was rather one sided and you sense the Shrimpers caught their hosts at just the right time.

Thursday’s win against Gateshead confirmed Fylde’s National League status for another season but a second game in three days was always going to be tough going for Chris Beech’s side.

Blues deserved the win but should have triumphed by a far greater margin.

Striker Danny Waldron wasted a number of clear cut chances in the first half but the forward kept going and should be praised for perseverance in front of goal.

With things seemingly not going his way, Waldron could have been forgiven for shying away from things in the final third.

But instead he remained determined and got his reward when heading the Shrimpers in front just six minutes into the second half.

Blues stayed in control and sealed their win when Harry Cardwell also netted with a well-taken header.

The goal was Cardwell’s 18th of the season, making it the best return for a Shrimpers player since Barry Corr back in 2010/11.

And he deserves immense credit for his campaign.

The same could be said for everything single Southend squad member for the way in which they conducted themselves in the most testing of times.

Some squads would have downed tools in similar circumstances but Blues kept going.

Whatever happens in the next few days this season has been an incredible achievement.

And, as seems likely, the Shrimpers do miss out on the play-offs, it will very much be the fault of the chairman and the seemingly never ending crisis he created.