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Interview: Southend journo Chris details just how bad Sunderland’s opponents today have it...

Here to provide Sunderland fans with a sense of perspective is Southend Echo journalist Chris Phillips, who admits that today could go down as one of the most sorry days in the recent history of Southend United if they’re relegated.

Chris Phillips

Hey, if you’re fuming about the way our season has gone, spare a thought for the lads and lasses at Southend.

Remember not too long ago when we never won? Southend are going through that right now. Remember when we had to wait for this stage of the season for our survival to be confirmed? You better believe that’s happening for The Shrimpers. Remember when your beloved pet just couldn’t handle it any more and you had to put it down? Well Southend had to sack the lovely Chris Powell, so I think they know where you’re coming from.

So while we just have the matter of “where in the play off play off places will we finish?” to contend with on Saturday, the Southend fans will be worrying about their League One survival.

How do they feel about their chances though? Well we spoke to Chris Philips of the Southend Echo to get the low down on that, just how painful it was to see Chris Powell depart and his feelings on the upcoming game.

RR: When we spoke back in October you were pretty optimistic with Southend in 9th place. I imagine the mood is quite different now but what’s gone wrong since then?

CP: That seems a very long time ago now but the struggles since then have been down to a variety of reasons really. Ben Coker was injured in that game, hasn’t played since and two days after that it was confirmed Tom Hopper, who was top scorer at the time, would also miss the rest of the season.

A poor transfer deadline day in January hasn’t helped and recruitment in general has been quite poor.

I could be here all night talking about other reasons things haven’t gone to plan but ultimately it’s one win in 17 games for Southend now and they just haven’t performed well enough.

RR: The popular Chris Powell was dismissed at the end of the month. Was the sacking justified given the run of form you were on? How are you feeling about Kevin Bond as well, do you see him staying on beyond this season?

CP: Everyone was willing Chris Powell to do well. He was one of the club’s best ever players and is a really nice guy too so everyone was right behind him but sadly football doesn’t often do fairytales and it didn’t really work out. Southend had gone 11 games without a win before his dismissal and a change in management was a last throw of the dice to try and avoid relegation.

Kevin Bond has been in charge for five games so it’s too early to judge at this stage. There have been some good performances and some bad ones too but, ultimately, his reign will be decided by whatever happens on Saturday.

I don’t think anyone is really thinking about next season just yet but if Southend stay up then it goes without saying there’s more chance Kevin Bond will stay at the club.

The Black Football List Celebration Photo by Alex Broadway/Getty Images

RR: How do you see the final day going? You must fancy getting a result off us given our recent form but how do you think those around you will get on in their respective games?

CP: Your recent form is good to compared to ours!

Obviously everyone is hoping Sunderland will already be thinking about the play-offs and may rest one or two key players but it’s going to be tough whoever is selected.

It’s still in Southend’s hands but I think they will need to win to stay up. There’s no point really worrying about the other games because ideally we want one to be a draw and you can end up driving yourself made with all the various permeations.

Southend have the toughest game but fingers crossed it will work out.

RR: Who should Sunderland fans be worried about as we head into this match? Anyone in the Southend ranks who you can see causing us problems?

CP: Simon Cox has been by far Southend’s best player this season.

He’s got 17 goals and eight assists which is some going given how bad the performances have been at times and how isolated he has often been in attack.

Southend United v Northampton Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

RR: Jack Ross may be tempted to rest players like Aiden McGeady as we look towards the play offs but we still need to solidify a 3rd/4th place finish, so he will probably keep the changes to a minimum. With that in mind, who will you be keeping an eye on in the Sunderland side?

CP: Everyone!

McGeady is obviously the one who springs to mind immediately but I’m sure most of your squad would get into the starting line-ups of most other sides at this level. Will Grigg is obviously another one and him signing for £4million really does show how strong Sunderland are at this level.

You could probably add together all of Southend’s transfer fees they have paid since being formed in 1906 and I’m not sure it would top £4million.

RR: What approach will Kevin Bond take in this game? Do you think he’ll really push for a win given three points would guarantee your safety.

CP: Southend will do whatever they can to win the game because it’s pretty much certain they will need the three points to survive.

I don’t think everyone will be piling forward from the first minute or anything like that. But you would expect Southend to be committed and to really put Sunderland under pressure when they have the ball because it’s now or never really.

RR: What do you think the final score will be? Will it be a day that ends in Southend survival or will it be a heartbreaking one?

CP: In truth, it doesn’t look great for Southend. They haven’t beaten a top eight team in the League this season and if you add cup contests into the equation, Southend have gone 17 games without beating sides in that upper echelons of the table.

Just two points have been taken from a possible 45 against teams in the top eight and Sunderland are obviously one of the best teams at this level.

Over the years though Southend have made a habit of winning when nobody expects it and I hope that’s the case at the weekend so I’ll say 2-1 to us!

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