Football: Fan's Eye View: No 209 - Southend United

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The Independent Online
Is there such a thing as "relegation kit"? Can something as increasingly ephemeral as these coloured viscose concoctions be so fundamental to a team's success or failure in the league? The effects of "invisible'' grey kits on performance are well documented, as is the irrational dependence that most association footballers seem to have on superstition and the fates.

Watching Southend versus Ipswich Town recently I was perturbed that two players seemed reluctant to reappear after the interval, only arriving just as the referee raised the whistle to his lips. It transpired that one of the miscreants, Andy Rammell, had been wrestling with his contact lenses and the other, Phil Gridelet, refused to leave the dressing-room before him because it was his custom to always be the last on to the pitch.

In view of the team's results so far one can only speculate with dread just how bad things could have been had he not kept up this tradition. It has even been mooted in crueller circles that if he took his superstition to its logical conclusion and did not come out at all then the team would only benefit further. However, could the team strip also be playing its malign part?

I must admit to having been only mildly curious as to the design of the much-heralded "new kit'' before its first official airing in a pre-season friendly against Tottenham Hotspur. Admittedly, I was fairly cynical about the whole affair in that this would be about the 10th new kit in as many years but I had been lulled into a false sense of security over the past few seasons.

The Southend team had of late been decked out in what was a largely understated and rather tasteful outfit as football strips go. I had begun to believe that a rational mind was at last in charge of kit selection. I was soon disabused. Both he, and his guide dog, were both obviously criminally insane.

When the team took the field that night there was an audible gasp from the crowd. It was not one of admiration. My initial opinion was that the tension of the evening had somehow got to "our boys'' and they had all been sick down their fronts as they ran out on to the field. Sadly this was erroneous.

The offending garments are an indeterminate blue colour with an eruption of puce/yellow on the front.The only explanations I could come up was that the team had upset our beloved chairman and he was wreaking his revenge.

This bizarre "design'' has even meant that Southend United could possibly have achieved a league first. On two occasions this season, against West Brom and Norwich, they have been obliged to play a home game in their red away kit. Foolishly the opposition had assumed that "The Blues'' played in blue and so had arrived with a yellow strip. No one had thought to mention the sick stain.

Is it any wonder we can't sign anyone? If required to wear one of these shirts in public I would demand a police escort and a blanket over my head. The last time "The Shrimpers'' looked this bad they slid into the Fourth Division. Relegation kit indeed!

Consequently the team stagger inexorably towards the abyss and we long suffering idiots begin to reacquaint ourselves with the routes to Shrewsbury, Walsall and Chesterfield. It might be apposite, however for the board to resolve that, if they give most of our players the bum's rush in June (as they ought) they allow them to take their kit with them. And serve them right!