Absence makes the heart grow fonder
It’s only when you step away from something for a while that you realise how much you love it. A new job at the start of the football season took me away from Southend United for a while. I would be working while we were playing, or I would roll back into town just that little bit too late for kick-off. It seemed that the footballing gods were playing with me, mutating my love for the club under the guise of ‘real life.’
And as luck would have it, my absence resulted in a spell of complete dominance for the club. For once, we started a season without controversy, or money woes, or fall-outs. We actually won some games of football in succession.
Soon we were top, and the riviera was gleaming with the chimes of success at the lowest tier. Ryan Hall was marketing himself as the best player in the entire division, Bilel Mohsni, that erratic loveable Frenchman was either banging in a screamer from 35 yards, or marshalling the defence like Rommel.
But football can charm and deceive with the grace of the really hot girl you think is giving you the eye, but actually has a sighting on your worst enemy. Christmas came and went with floodlight failures, and arguments within the team. Exciting signings came in and flattered to deceive, while old Bilel just tried to flatten everyone. The realities of life began to sink back in. This is who we are, this is what we do.
So here we are, one last chance to put an impression on this division that isn’t of a team in complete disarray. The Sky cameras will be fixed on Roots Hall, and an expectant world will tune in, sacking off Eastenders for the Eden of the East. Crawley Town are the visitors, a team struggling under the weight of expectation themselves. Are they for real, or are they just another Rushden and Diamonds? Is Steve Evans really the voice of the voiceless as he perceives himself to be, or just another wide boy succeeding on bluster rather than talent?
To most, Southend United v Crawley Town will just be a minor footnote on an otherwise unremarkable Monday night in March. But it means so much more than that. If you’ve ever sat on that seat, in that ground, the scent of onions fizzling through the air, the stewards so close you can smell their cologne (not unlike the onions), the drum beating, never stopping, as thousands of voices, back from the City, or the building site, from college, from the dole office scream in unison, just hoping that this evening, above all others is the one that will define the season, then you will know exactly how important this is. If you don’t, you’ve got 90 minutes to change your mind.