Southend’s Plight Reminds Us To Be Grateful

The visit of Southend is the perfect moment to reflect on how fortunate we are.

Their off-field problems are horribly familiar, and illustrate why we should get behind the fan-led review’s recommendation that an independent regulator for football should be appointed.

Football clubs are important in far more wide-reaching ways than merely being a source of entertainment. They are a source of civic pride and the inspiration for a lot of worthy community work which makes a genuine difference to people’s lives. If you think I’m exaggerating, take a look at the impact Rob and Ryan’s takeover has had on our city.

Wrexham fans shouldn’t need reminding of how horribly wrong things can go for a football club. We’ve had two near-death experiences this century and were lucky to survive the 1980s too.

Our clashes with Southend in the 1980s are a remarkable illustration of how things have changed for us. They came to The Racecourse five times in that decade, and only once was the crowd above 2,000.

Even that attendance was only 11 above that mark, and even then there were extenuating circumstances: it was the first home league game of season, and there was an air of optimism as the end of the previous campaign had seen us reach the play-off final.

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If it’s hard to square that with what’s happening at The Racecourse now, consider a grim encounter on an April Thursday in 1987 which attracted a crowd of 935, and only warranted a one-sheet programme!

We should never forget how bad things can get, and sadly Southend are an example of a club who are suffering similar problems.

Last week they settled their debt with the HMRC, which was broadly celebrated in the national media. That shows just how important local reporting is because, as far as I can see, that was a mere stay of execution. The roots of the problem remain.

I’m not willing to get sued, so I’ll measure my summation of the situation carefully. However, I don’t think anybody could argue against the observation that the HMRC are troubled by the behaviour of United’s owner, Ron Martin. The money which fended off last week’s winding-up order was promised in October. The authorities are understandably reluctant to tolerate what they might see as brinkmanship when the public purse is involved.

As a joint statement of the club’s supporters groups said after the winding-up order was finally dismissed, there’s no room for complacency as “the next crisis could be just around the corner.”

Alongside the off-field traumas runs a familiar tale: the players and coaching staff have been remarkable in their efforts to keep the club going. It’s incredible to see them still in the mix for the play-offs, with the second-best defensive record in the division, despite all the problems they’ve been experiencing off the pitch.

You’ll also recognise the fight shown by their supporters in the light of these problems. They’ve battled through every challenge, challenged authority and been the most reliable source of information on what’s really going on, just like we did.

Similarly, they’ve also become very familiar with the workings of the legal system and company law, a journey we embarked on too! It’s not an area we wanted to become proficient in, but was the only way to understand what was happening to our clubs and hope to help, even if it’s only by telling our story clearly to others.

Obviously, the battle on the pitch is something we try to separate from the background problems our opponents have, and no quarter should be asked for or given between 3 and 5 on Saturday, on the pitch or in the stands.

Apart from that window, it’s our responsibility to be excellent hosts to a fine band of fans, who will travel the width of the country and more to give their team unequivocal support, not knowing if the machinations of others could soon rob them of that essential match day experience.

Like I said, we’re lucky to have come through our problems and should never forget that. Hopefully Southend fans can take a moment to see how we were reborn from near oblivion and take hope that they will travel on a similar trajectory soon.

If they want to be really gracious guests, they could leave us three points too!


6 thoughts on “Southend’s Plight Reminds Us To Be Grateful

  1. Hi there can you please tell what I have to do to listen to your match day commentaries. Thank you Regards Phil Preest.

    1. I’m sorry I’ve only just noticed this comment! You can listen to the commentary throguh Wrexham AFC’s website. You have to register first (but that’s free!) nd then you can listen on the Wrexham Player, which will be at the top of the home page on match days.

      1. Thank you Mark for the info. I used to listen to you on Calon Radio until finished . I would just like to say that your commentries are excellent and look forward to listening to you next season
        Regards Philip Preest.

      2. Thanks for your reply, I will look forward to listening your commentries next season, I used to listen to you on Calon fm until it finished. Finally may I say your commentries well excellent. Regards Philip Preest.

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