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FAN FOCUS: Southend journo Chris thinks Sunderland are in for a tough game and predicts a draw!

Southend are enjoying life under the management of club legend Chris Powell, and are on a good run in League One. Ahead of the game, we caught up with Chris Phillips from the Southend Echo - and he thinks Sunderland are in for a tough afternoon.

Southend United v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League Two Playoff Final Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Back in the heady of days of 2007, while we were flying high on Niall Quinn’s magic carpet, Southend weren’t fairing so well. As we exited the Championship through the front door, The Shrimpers fell through the back one - and haven’t been in the second tier since.

The slide didn’t end there, though, with the club dropping into League Two just three years later, a stint that didn’t end until 2015. Who was the man who brought them back into the third tier, though? That’s right - South Shields’ favourite sunbed enthusiast, Phil Brown.

By modern footballs standards, Brown was the man in charge at Roots Hall for a life time. Taking the job in 2013, Brown lasted until this past January when the clubs poor form led to him offering his resignation - and it was time for club legend (and all round top bloke) Chris Powell to take the reigns!

To put this into context, this is probably the equivalent of Kevin Ball being our manager on a full time basis, so Southend fans must be positively jubilant to see their club doing so well with Powell at the helm.

To get the low down on just how optimistic they’re feeling, we spoke to Chris Philips of the Southend Echo - and he’s enthusiastic about their chances of taking something from their trip to the Stadium of Light this weekend.

Huddersfield Town v Nottingham Forest - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

RR: It’s been a decent start to the season for Southend, sitting in 9th place and only two points off the Play Offs. Was this expected before the start of the season, and how are people feeling about the campaign so far?

CP: Yes it was expected. Chris Powell really turned things round following his appointment in January, taking the team from one place above the relegation zone to 10th in his 18 games in charge.

That was top six form towards the end of last season, so hopes were high that kind of form could continue to into the new season and after a slightly inconsistent start things are starting to come together.

RR: It must be great to have a club legend in charge. Is that giving the fans a big cause for optimism not just for the season but going forward?

CP: Definitely! Chris made 290 appearances for Southend and is rightly regarded as one of the club’s best ever players.

That, combined with the way he has always conducted himself, makes him very popular with the fans and he’s done well as manager so far. At the moment everything seems positive and bodes well for the future.

RR: What’s the latest with the proposed stadium move for Southend? It seems like a move to Fossetts Farm may be finally on the cards but how do the fans feel about the club potentially relocating?

CP: This has been going on for so long now that, without sounding too harsh, I’m not sure people really tend to take too much notice of the updates. Many have the ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ mindset and it’s hard not to feel that way given how many years we’ve been hearing about the proposed move.

However, the chairman remains adamant it will happen and obviously if it did then it would be great for the club moving forward. Roots Hall isn’t the greatest of grounds in truth but it would still be very sad to leave there.

Southend United v Hull City - FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

RR: It’s hard to look beyond Tom Hopper as your main threat given his goal record so far this season. Is it all about him or should Sunderland fans be keeping an eye on anyone else?

CP: I’m not sure if Tom will be playing to be honest. He went off in the first half against Walsall with a knee injury and he must be doubtful for the weekend.

Simon Cox has been playing well lately too though and he had scored five goals in five games before he was sent off against Coventry last weekend. He’s served a one match suspension now though and he will be back for Saturday.

RR: How about the Sunderland squad? Anyone you’re particularly worried about?

CP: It’s been so long since Southend and Sunderland have been in the same League that I have to be honest and say I don’t know an awful lot about your current team.

Sunderland are obviously extremely strong at this level though and I know you’ve won the last four so I think this is probably the hardest game Southend could be playing in the League at the moment.

From looking at the stats I’ve seen Josh Maja has already scored nine goals this season so he’s obviously going to be a threat.

RR: How do you expect Chris Powell to approach this game and what do you think the starting line up will be?

CP: The formation has been changed a few times in games recently but Southend lined up in a 4-3-3 system on Tuesday for the 3-0 win against Walsall, so you would want it to be the same on Saturday.

It will probably be a 4-5-1 without the ball and I’m sure Chris Powell will be looking to make Blues hard to break down.

However, Southend have done well away from home recently and go into this game on the back of three straight wins on the road.

RR: Finally, can we have a score prediction please?

CP: I’m awful with predictions but I’ll go for 1-1.

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