We spoke once again to Southend fan James Cambridge ahead of the League One match between the Shrimpers and Plymouth Argyle.
A lot has changed since you last spoke to us in August. How do you feel the season has gone for Southend?
The season has been a huge disappointment, largely due to injuries. I know it’s a cliched excuse but our squad has been decimated with many key players out for the entire campaign.
We’re currently without four nailed-on starters in Ben Coker, Jason Demetriou, Harry Lennon and Tom Hopper. And we can’t seem to get any momentum going and seem to have won one, lost one for the last 10 or 12 matches.
We’re sitting okay in 10th but it’s poles apart from what we expected from this season, especially given the form we ended the last campaign in when Chris Powell took charge.
There also seems to be some unrest behind the scenes with our Chairman berating the players after the midweek defeat to Portsmouth and we’re facing yet another winding up petition from the tax man!
All in all, not a great campaign.
How do you rate the job Chris Powell is currently doing as manager?
I think the fans are slightly disappointed to be honest. The form when he took charge at the back end of last season was fantastic – he even got us winning regularly away from home.
But this season we can’t put together a run, we’ve dropped far too many points at Roots Hall to weaker teams and there’s been a lot of criticism of the way he manages games. He’s not one to make swift subs and we’ve conceded a lot of late goals.
However, I think the injury situation has bought him a lot of time so I don’t think he’ll be heading the way of Phil Brown any time soon.
What areas do you think Southend most need to strengthen in going into the January market?
We need strikers. With Hopper out we’re relying on Simon Cox who is mainly a link man and despite his immense work rate he’s not prolific.
There’s talk of James Norwood coming in from Tranmere but Sheffield United want him so I’m not holding out much hope there!
We also need some defenders with Demetriou, Coker, Lennon, Rob Kiernan, Harry Kyprianou and now Taylor Moore out injured – it’s a joke.
How do you expect Southend to set up ahead of the game on Saturday?
We’ve been playing a mix of 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 so it’s hard to tell. At home I expect it will be the 4-3-3 with Simon Cox through the middle. Harry Bunn and Stephen McLaughlin are likely to start in attack too as they were the only bright sparks in the midweek defeat to Pompey.
The pitch can get a bit rough up there in the winter- how’s it looking currently?
The pitch has been fine this season after last term’s horror show. The club spent a lot of money in the summer bringing in a special team to analyse the pitch issues and whatever they’ve done it worked. If I recall they used specialists who are doing Spurs’ new ground – shame it hasn’t led to Premier League quality action on the field.
Who have been your star performers so far this season?
Dru Yearwood has continued his meteoric rise and will make his 50th league appearance against you guys on Saturday. The 18-year-old has had a lot of interest and quite rightly. He’s even worn the armband a few times this campaign and is a hugely exciting talent.
Another lad from our academy – Nathan Bishop – has also started to make a name for himself in goal following Mark Oxley’s injury. His clean sheet against Gillingham earned him a lot of plaudits and he’s also very highly rated by Powell and the staff.
And who are you most fearful of from the Argyle side?
It has to be Freddie Ladapo.
I never rated him when he was with us and he struggled to break into the team but it’s sod’s law that he’ll pop up with a goal on his return.
No doubt he’ll be really up for it and will want to prove Chris Powell wrong for letting him go in the summer.
What do you see as a realistic target for Southend for the rest of this season?
I’d like us to find some form and start making inroads on the play-offs if possible. It’s a big ask with sixth place already 10 points clear but it’s all we’ve got to play for.
At the very least, we need to ensure a top 10 finish otherwise we’re just going backwards. But the injuries have really knocked the wheels off this season, so expectations are realistic.
Can you see Argyle avoiding the drop this season?
It’s very tight down the bottom of League One this season so I don’t see why not.
Plus three of the four teams currently in the drop (Plymouth, Bradford and Oxford) shouldn’t really be there. All three are stronger sides than their league position suggests.
Finally, a score prediction for the game?
If our recent form is anything to go by, there’s zero chance of you winning this game. We’ve alternated win-loss win-loss win-loss for what feels like months now and we lost on Tuesday night to Pompey so…
I reckon we’ll edge it with home advantage by a single goal, either 1-0 or 2-1.