Who needs Fergie when you have Freddie
Tuesday 7th November 2006. In the 27th minute of Southend United’s first game with Manchester United, Freddy Eastwood curls a free kick round the despairing Manchester wall, and beyond Tomasz Kuszczak who is left stranded.
For the remaining minutes of the match the Southend backline is tested time after time but Southend hold firm, greatly aided by Daryl Flahavan’s three brilliant saves from Cristiano Ronaldo. Oh yeah, Ronaldo played.
And so did Rooney. And Smith. And Evra. And Brown. And Fletcher. And Richardson. And Silvestre. And Heinze. All those internationals, the accumulated fortunes which run into the hundreds of millions humiliated by the Shrimpers just days after Sir Alex celebrated 20 years in charge.
To be a Southend United fan requires a great deal of patience, and a degree of sense. But when Eastwood scores, and Flahavan saves, and Hooper runs rings around Rooney, and the old warhorse Spencer Prior, with the charismatic Efe Sodje keep the red army at bay with cool heads and composed defending, you have to let go of all that tension that comes from supporting a lower league club, and just appreciate the rare moments of glory for what they are.
Three years on, everything has changed, and yet strangely it seems like nothing has. A league lower (although we were rock bottom of the Championship with the Devils came calling.) Still no money, and with Eastwood long gone the doom should be spreading, but the tactical geniuses behind the victory remain. Tilly and Brush.
Tilson’s fists pumping in the air, Brushey’s grin, unable to mask the euphoria that comes from taking the lead against one of the most successful footballing sides the world has ever seen – and holding onto that lead into the 90th minute.
To this day fans still talk about that fateful night at Roots Hall. DVDs of the game are passed around with all the delicacy of Mary clutching her new born son, Jesus in the manger. We had our own religious enlightenment then, amidst the wind and the cold. The gypsy king, Freddy Eastwood led a service so frenzied that even now, when I can’t sleep, and I toss and turn, I can still hear it. ‘Dun dun dun dun, Freddy Eastwood’.
I smile. I then remember Ol’ Fergie’s face, the gum chewing like Enola Gay had exploded in his face. Memories that will last a lifetime.
So the record books still state, the only English team in the world with a 100% record over Manchester United? The blue boys from Essex. Southend United. By far the greatest team, the world has ever seen.
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