David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Southend United’ Category

Shrimpers sunk by Shots’ floodlight shambles

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Southend United’s recent bad luck and bad form was compounded over the festive fixtures as the club’s tie with Aldershot was abandoned.

Floodlight failure in nPower League Two, oh the irony.

Let’s face it; Boxing Day’s match abandonment at Aldershot was an utter shambles. Fans were left in the dark as announcements over the tannoy contradicted each other before a decision was finally made to call the game off, and it left a bad taste in the mouth for many who had given up a day with their families to see the Blues in action.

And in the end, two days later, the Shots’ chief executive Peter Duffy did apologise to the Shrimpers faithful for the confusion, saying: “At the time when the game was called off there were a few minutes when it wasn’t clear if the match had been abandoned.”

Southend had taken an early lead thanks to Liam Dickinson’s penalty in the seventh minute. It was an important goal for Dicko considering he had only netted once in his last seven league game and hopefully he can now kick on and regain his early season form which saw him bag a goal every other match. Aldershot on 39 minutes went down to ten-men after Darren Jones was shown a straight red for swinging an arm at the goal scorer.

At the risk of sounding presumptuous, against ten-men it is likely Paul Sturrock’s side would have gone on to win the game, a vital win which would have seen us a point behind leaders Crawley Town, instead we sit third having been leapfrogged by Cheltenham Town.

Our recent FA Cup and Johnstone’s Paint trophy distractions haven’t helped our league form, which sees us without a win in three, a disappointing stat after starting the season at a canter and the presumed win over the Shots would have been a welcome Christmas present going into games with AFC Wimbledon and rivals Dagenham and Redbridge.

The other shambolic feature of the abandonment is something the Football League really needs to take a look at though.

Resident madman and ill disciplined Michael Jackson impersonator, Bilel Mohsni, along with left-back Peter Gilbert had been suspended for the game at Recreation Ground, unsurprisingly in the case of the French-Tunisian. As a result of the abandonment the pair will miss the tie with AFC Wimbledon, it might not sound too bad you might think, but consider the following – due to a booking in the first-half against Aldershot, Dickinson will now also miss the game with The Dons, which is ridiculous.

The result doesn’t count so neither should the yellow or red cards that were given. I understand that would mean Mr. Darren Jones could even be let off despite his violent conduct but looking at the records the match now doesn’t exist. Hopefully the Football League will change this at some point but without it impacting on bigger sides from the three divisions, it’s doubtful an alteration will occur.

Now it’s just for Paul Sturrock and the Shrimpers to get the promotion bid back on track and handle the now impending fixture congestion to the best of their abilities.

Written by Anton Stanley, We Are Going Up’s Southend United blogger

Anton tweets at @AntonStanley

Shrimper Kane is so able… but hands off, he’s ours!

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

There have been many historic footballing families, the Allens, the Charltons, the Dawsons and the Nevilles.

Undoubtedly though, of recent times, the most successful dynasty in British football has been the Ferdinands.

‘Sir’ Les, crashed onto the scene as his incredible goalscoring form led to him going from van driver and part-time Hayes striker to Queens Park Rangers frontman, for £30,000.

From there he had a superb Premier League career starring for Newcastle’s title challengers in the mid 1990′s and Tottenham’s mediocre but ambitious side of the late 90′s and early 2000′s before becoming a journeyman striker. He remains the joint fifth highest scorer in Premier League history with 149 goals.

Next to come along was Les’ cousin Rio, who really doesn’t need introducing, having won five Premier League medals, a Champions League winners medal and 81 England caps, although Rio’s brother Anton, might.

The third Ferdy, started out at West Ham with much promise only to fade after he missed the crucial penalty in the epic 2006 FA Cup Final where the Hammers drew 3-3 with Liverpool only to lose on spot-kicks. He then went onto Sunderland and is now starring at QPR.

But now there is a fourth Ferdinand.

This is 19-year-old Kane Ferdinand. He is a cousin of Rio and Anton, although it would seem due to their rather large family he has had barely any contact with them.

Having been with Southend United since he was 13 he progressed through the ranks as a defensive midfielder and on January 1 2011 he made his debut for the club against Oxford United in a 2-0 victory at the Kassam Stadium.

After impressing all at the game Kane remained with the first team squad and continued to show his potential as a versatile midfielder also capable of filling gaps in defence.

Now he’s in his first full season as a regular for Southend and the boy has definitely done good. His defensive ability was undoubted but now the Ireland Under-19 international is blooming into a brilliant attacking playmaker.

He was asked to assume a more offensive role for the Shrimpers by boss Paul Sturrock and Kane is delivering. He’s notched six goals in his fifteen appearances so far in what has been an astonishing season at Roots Hall.

Southend top League Two ahead of Crawley Town, who many assumed would romp to the title, and sit six points clear of the play-offs already, which was unprecedented at the start of the season considering Barry Corr’s injury woes and the disciplinary problems within the squad.

Southend have, rather incredibly, won nine of their last ten league matches and this nosebleed-inducing form can partly be placed at the feet of the youngster, although many would argue the performances of the herculean Mark Phillips at centre-back and Liam Dickinson bagging the goals up top were equally as crucial.

Sadly the sparkling showings of young Ferdinand flag up the same old problems for sides like Southend.

The summertime advances of Peterborough United were brushed aside but now bigger fish are circling, it feels like the Shrimpers are headed for shark infested waters and predators like West Ham United, said to be offering £500,000 for Kane, will prove hard to fight off.

Kane himself has shrugged off the interest in him as the Hammers shamelessly scout his performances but The Irons are watching and waiting for their moment to pounce.

Speaking after Southend’s 3-2 win over rivals Dagenham and Redbridge, he said; “You can’t let it get to you and you have no choice but to focus on your game and carry on.”

“You can’t be affected by any of it and just have to try to keep on playing well to help the team get good results.”

Hopefully his form will continue and the achievements of Southend this season will match his ambitions, but you can’t help but feel that as long as form continues the shoal of sharks will continue to circle until he’s finally sold and that will be a sad day indeed.

Too often in recent times have Southend lost their best youngsters to Premier League sides who hunt for the stars of tomorrow as they look to win the top flight’s arms race, flooding their youth academies with cheap youngsters hoping they will progress into the next big thing.

Femi Orenuga joined the ranks of Everton after representing Southend in the FA Cup as a 15-year-old back in 2008 under Steve Tilson. The winger is yet to appear for the Toffees and is now on loan at Notts County, and striker Michael Ngoo left for the other side of Merseyside when he signed for Liverpool in 2009.

Lyle Della-Verde was Southend’s most recent loss, transferring to West London and Fulham in August, although chief executive Tara Brady seems insistent that they aren’t a selling club – most of the time.

“It’s not a case of us having to sell Lyle because of the money, it just makes good sense at this stage,”  Brady told the Southend Echo.

“If a Premier League club makes an offer above what we value any of our players then it’s hard to say no.

“It would also be difficult to keep someone here once their head has been turned by a Premier League club.

“We don’t cash in on all our young players either. We turned down offers for Anthony Furlonge and others last year and there are plenty of more talented youngsters working their way through the system to follow in the footsteps of people like Kane Ferdinand.

“It is about striking a balance and that’s what I think we do.”

Let’s hope Brady and the club stick to their word and perhaps, aided by Kane Ferdinand, the club can stop this talent drain by moving up the divisions.

So hands off West Ham, he’s ours – for the time being.

Written by Anton Stanley, We Are Going Up’s Southend United Blogger

Anton tweets at @antonstanley

How do you solve a problem like Bilel Mohsni?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Off the field Southend United defender (and occasional hot-shot striker) Bilel Mohsni is pretty nice guy and certainly an endearing character.

After his opening day goal against Hereford the French-Tunisian high-fived reporters and in the Shrimpers’ pre-season tie with local rivals Canvey Island the tall, curly-haired centre-back grabbed the microphone at half-time and praised teammate Anthony Grant for his display.

The former Sainte-Geneviève Sports defender is also known for his love of the Shrimpers support, always taking time out to sign autographs and chat with his adoring fans.

But for some reason on the pitch Mohsni just can’t seem to control his temperament.

He was involved in a ‘fracas’ after the Carling Cup defeat against Leyton Orient while against Ipswich in pre-season, following several running battles throughout the game, Mohsni was hauled off by boss Paul Sturrock before he could be sent-off.

After the game his manager warned him about his conduct and promised that he would help him change.

“We’ve tried to work out why he gets involved and really get to the bottom of what’s happening because it needs to stop happening,” said Sturrock to www.echo-news.co.uk.

“Bilel is the heartbeat of our side and we don’t want him sat in the stands suspended all the time.”

And he places some of blame at his lack of education within the sport following his time on the park pitches of Paris.

Plucked from the amateur leagues across the channel, the enthusiasm and passion he had for playing lacked the discipline needed for professional football and Sturrock hopes Mohsni can change his ways.

“You learn about discipline and things like that during your upbringing in football but Bilel hasn’t really had that,” Sturrock continued.

“Hopefully with more games he can learn to keep calm but we don’t want him to lose the spark which makes him stand out.

“That’s what has made everyone take to him at the club because no-one has ever seen someone play with quite so much passion before.”

Advice has also come from Southend United hero Paul Clark. The former Shrimpers player and manager starred well over 300 times for the club and he thinks to get the best from Mohsni both player and manager have to alter their mentalities.

“You have to decide if someone is worth continuing to work with through all of this,” said Clark. “I think Bilel definitely is but it’s only worth the risk it if he’s also willing to work on improving as well.

“It has to work both ways but he definitely has a lot going for him and has a lot of potential but he has to realise he’s a footballer first and foremost and not worry about being a tough guy.”

Clark also believes Mohsni needs to learn the subtleties of English football and the Benfleet-born defender, who knew a thing or two about a tackle has offered this advice to him.

“Learn to kick people when nobody is looking… because a real tough guy is one who does things that nobody really notices.”

Mohsni himself seems to understand his own issues but as of yet doesn’t appear to be dealing with what the club feel is a pressing problem.

“I think I need to try and calm down when I play,” he told www.echo-news.co.uk. “Last season I was sent off a couple of times and then had to miss games being suspended so I don’t want that to happen again. I think I can do it and need to stop getting involved in silly things on the pitch.”

And showing his usual off the field style directed praise towards the Shrimpers’ support insisting that any success this season would be dedicated to them.

“Hopefully we can make the play-offs at least this season and I want my second year to be even better than the first because of the fans. They have been great to me and I would love for them to have something to really celebrate.”

The reported ‘fracas’ after the Orient cup tie saw the versatile star given what was seen as a ‘final warning’ but with their being no repercussions from his silly sending off against Gillingham it appears all will be done to make sure Mohsni stays with the club whatever his actions.

But the most telling words came for Southend chief executive (and MMA fighter!) Tara Brady who said of his defender: “Bilel is an asset to the club and in many ways he’s a real warrior, but even warriors need discipline.”

Written by Anton Stanley, We Are Going Up’s Southend United Blogger

Anton tweets at @antonstanley

We do like to be beside the seaside

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

Life is never usually dull beside the seaside and Southend-on-Sea doesn’t buck that trend.

Eastenders recently filmed some of their ‘world famous dramatic’ scenes on the pier, while boozy nights are omnipresent, along with ‘chuggers’ on the High Street. Boyracers congregate by the seafront and show off their shiny new motors and the bass reverberates, shaking the sand which has drifted onto the roads.

There’s even ‘Adventure Island’, a quaint theme park to entertain the endless amount of thrill-seekers. Here you can take a ride on the Sea Serpents, or maybe, if you fancy, you can have a fright at the hands of the Pharaoh’s Fury.

It’s a multi-coloured puzzle of metal which splits miles of beach and excited screams pierce the fresh sea air.

Life just two miles inland from the beach has definitely been a rollercoaster ride for Shrimpers fans at Roots Hall over the last two years.

2010 saw the Blues descend into League Two dogged by financial troubles and having to register almost a whole new team of players just days before the start of the 2010/11 campaign. There were mid-season revelations that the club were losing £100,000 per game but there were also revelations on the pitch.

Unknown French-Tunisian defender Bilel Mohsni put in some imperious performances at the back and occasionally up front when needed. He was also the subject of a £250,000 bid from Premier League Seasiders Blackpool, which was politely knocked back.

Left-winger Ryan Hall proved pivotal with some game changing performances from the flank, ending the season with the most assists in League Two. And 18-year-old starlet Kane Ferdinand (a cousin of the famous clan, although it appears they aren’t in contact much) proved he was more than able and put in some shifts that belied his age.

In the end, after an incredibly up and down season the Shrimpers finished up in 13th place, and after the fiscal woes consolidation was exactly what was needed. This season the club, players and fans are all hoping that flirtations with the play-off positions last season can be turned into a solid promotion push.

Manager Paul Sturrock has had longer to run the rule over new-signings, playing friendlies with plenty of trialists involved, including ex-Tottenham star Rohan Ricketts who despite initial promise proved to lack what was needed for him to earn a contract.

Ryan Leonard joins on free transfer from Plymouth Argyle, the 19-year-old right-back thrilled the Shrimpers fans and Sturrock with some solid displays and three sensational strikes from long range. The first, a drilled shot from 30-yards against Dartford which didn’t stop rising until it thrashed the back the net. His second, a day later, was a lob from fully 50-yards against Great Wakering Rovers and the final netbuster came, once again, from 30-yards, against Braintree Town.

And Sturrock’s move for Leonard’s isn’t just to bolster the squad but to create competition for places; squad depth is an issue for the Blues and it’s good to see Sturrock addressing it.

25-year-old striker Liam Dickinson also arrived on a free and will certainly bring a new dimension to Sturrock’s strike force, bearing in mind he stands at six foot four. Alongside Barry Corr, himself a commanding six foot three, who netted a fine 18 goals in the league last season and of course Neil Harris who joins his boyhood club from Millwall; the Shrimpers appear to have an embarrassment of attacking options.

There was also the arrival of fleet-footed winger Jemal Johnson from CSKA Sofia and defensive midfielder Jean-Paul Kalala who some may remember for his goal scoring heroics against Tottenham for Grimsby in the League Cup in 2005 as the minnows sent Spurs crashing out.

The only incoming loanee Alassane N’Diaye has, however, already split opinion after some extremely below-par performances to put it politely since signing from Crystal Palace for the season.

One key factor which in all honesty I believe will fire the Shrimpers to at least the play-offs is their team spirit, which seems incredibly high at Roots Hall currently. Neil Harris’ new column ‘Neil by mouth’ in the Southend Echo has brought revelations and stories which will certainly raise the hopes of a good season.

Firstly the Shrimpers’ pre-season was livened up with some Highland hijinks. The four day ‘tour’ of Scotland saw a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Dundee United and a 0-0 draw with Raith Rovers but it was the shenanigans off the field which were refreshing to hear.

Youngster Merrick James-Lewis was the butt of the jokes after turning up to dinner wearing his pyjamas, while Peter Gilbert was mocked universally when his passport revealed his real name to be Eric. Also just this week Southend’s training ground was attacked by the Ice Cream Bandit as Barry Corr’s car was plastered with a cone of the town’s finest.

Some of the lads took part in some MMA (Mixed Martial Arts to those not in the know) amongst other bouts, Chris Barker fought against Blair Sturrock while Bilel Mohsni and goal-machine Barry Corr also battled it out.

Maybe the tussle will have helped to get some aggression out of Mohsni who needs to learn how to control his temper after getting into a spot of bother in the 1-1 draw with Ipswich. The French-Tunisian also had disciplinary issues last season getting sent off once while collecting yellow cards as hobby during one ill tempered period!

Hopefully for all concerned a push for promotion isn’t just fantasy for us. Holding on to some of our star performers, so far, brings great confidence and the signings made by Sturrock look like they will be pushing the club in the right direction.

If things don’t go well and mid-table mediocrity or worse beckons for the Shrimpers it might be a very long walk off a very long pier for Sturrock.

Written by Anton Stanley, We Are Going Up’s Southend United Blogger

Anton tweets at @antonstanley