Trial and error

Trial and error

SOUTHEND have played some interesting friendlies this summer. I don’t mean Great Wakering and Billericay. Phil Brown’s side have pitted their wits against both Spurs and Colchester, juicy games indeed for the average Shrimpers fan more used to visiting the same non-league clubs every year. It’s just a shame none of our supporters were there to see them.

In addition to these two fixtures (we lost 2-1 to Spurs and beat Colchester by the same score, if you were wondering), more are apparently lined up over the next couple of weeks, with only youth teamers and trialists to be selected for Southend’s one remaining away ‘open’ friendly at Concord Rangers tonight.

It’s not like Phil Brown to shy away from the public eye. Some supporters (and possibly the odd Essex Police officer fond of a spot of overtime) have questioned the decision to keep especially the Colchester match private when an evening game would have attracted a fair crowd (certainly higher than games against Ipswich and QPR) and resulted in increased revenue.

It could well be the fans’ fault. Despite one of the most gripping World Cups in memory occupying our time for more than a month during the silly season, this has not stemmed the insatiable demand from supporters for updates about new signings, pre-season friendlies and new kits. A thread on Shrimperzone discussing the potential strip the club will be wearing next season ran to 37 pages (15 posts per page) – and is still going. Trialists (chiefly brought in to make up the numbers to help a currently small squad get through early friendlies without injury) are assessed rigorously – and there is outcry if anyone performs well but is sent packing. The social media-fuelled, constantly connected fan demands updates 24/7 – gone are the days when phoning Clubcall every week or a quick look at the back of the Echo satisfied your demand for off-season news on the Blues.

It must be frustrating for gaffers who want to assess a potential signing only for message boards and Twitter to be abuzz with his name, height and Football Manager career statistics before the match is even into the 20th minute. Smartphones can identify a player immediately – potentially alerting rival clubs to his availability (although the reality is – like the rest of us – they’re pretty clued-up already). No wonder, if there player who is actually a potential signing and not, like 90% of trialists, just there to make up the numbers, managers want these games played in private.

It’s very amusing when clubs don’t announce the names of these likely lads when reading the teams out prior to kick off. At Braintree on Saturday, home fans were told that “at number 7, we have a trialist”. Give it up mate, the fans already know his mum’s maiden name and what he had for breakfast this morning. You may as well just tell them. Or just play the game behind closed doors.

Behind closed doors

Behind closed doors