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Southend United: Traveller’s Tales

Posted by Rob Brown
Posted on Thu 16 Feb 2023
Posted in News

It’s always the quiet ones that you have to watch. They sit there, passive, and observant, they are always part of the fabric home and away, hiding in plain sight.  Few know who they are, they are not technology junkies, you won’t find them on social media, their views are only shared amongst the few who travel together. They have tales, hidden in their memory banks, history, the good times, the desperate times, and a keen eye for normality.  They are Shaymen through and through.  With some of the usual suspects unavailable, we had the company of a couple of these people, and five hours of driving ahead of us, we weren’t going to miss the opportunity to engage them in the life and times of watching Halifax Town.

We were perhaps, cavalier with our planning, we’d been down to Harrow recently and without thinking, we agreed to set off at similar time. Instantly, Tesco Pete was in a panic, the Satnav confirmed that with a clear run, our 232-mile journey south would get us into Southend for 6.00pm. With rush hour traffic ahead of us, the first casualty of the day was our ‘all you can eat’ tea. However good it would have been, there was no way we would risk missing kick-off. Pete stared longingly at the usual junction as we passed by, we’d already fallen 20 minutes behind schedule, we couldn’t afford any time for a stop, however desperate for the loo we all were!

As the bright afternoon slipped away and darkness fell, the Warley Shayman entertained us with tales of World Cups, European Championships and watching his local team. We never talked about the results, it was more the travel to countries around the world, the planning, the comradeship amongst fans, the close calls with the authorities. The chance encounter with an England manager on one continent and recognition, years later, on another as their paths crossed again. How could he possibly remember a passing conversation with one fan, years before? It’s often the little things that keep our passion for football burning.

With the clock ticking, the Quizmaster was keen to share his driving skills from the back seat, he’d been there and done it too, both travelling the world watching football and driving for a living. The vehicles behind blasted their horns as we dodged a few queues and pushed in. It felt uncomfortable at times, but with true teamwork, we took his advice to the letter, and rolled into Southend shortly before 7.00pm.

The floodlights of Roots Hall illuminated the night skies, low mist accentuated the beams of light though the gaps in the nearby houses. Admission was £20 but this came with conditions, without working electricity in the away end we were confined to the first four rows of seats.  We were told that the game was at risk without this solution, the floodlights would provide just enough light for us to navigate the old cast iron, barrel roofed stand.  Our view was low, our eye level was only just above pitch level, we were close to the action, but the far goal wasn’t clear, it seemed like we were watching through a slightly dusty window with mist apparent, but not threatening.

The Shaymen had a good first half, most of the action took place in front of the double decker stand at the far end of the ground.  There were moments of activity at our end, a few corners for the home side but nothing too dangerous. Whirlwind Jim and his motley crew did their best to compete with the home fans noise and their drum in the covered yellow seats down the right hand side of the pitch. The occasional rhythmic clapping was the only contribution from the main stand. The Shaymen bundled in a goal, just on half time at the far end as the 36 travelling Shaymen celebrated; Town were good value for their lead, having created the best chances in the half.

The match changed in the second half, Southend were more adventurous attacking the far end. They won and converted a penalty for something that we could not clearly see.  The 5000 home fans then spurred their team on.  It seemed the Shaymen might weather the storm, but a corner ended up in our net, again hard to see, to give the home side victory.

Driving back through the intermittent fog and we reflected on what may have been, it’s one defeat in our last four away trips now. We’re off to visit our friends at Boreham Wood on Saturday and another tough game. C’mon Shaymen!

Miles on the road 7014, Goals on the road 17.

Read more posts by Rob Brown