No Refunds When Loving Thy Neighbour
Streams of speculation reckon Freddy Eastwood could represent Wales before too long, bringing Southend United some good news at the end of a torrid week. Good Friday’s potentially fiery derby against Colchester will re-ignite a storm after relative calm, though: “We all think we’re going to stay up,” says defender Peter Clarke.
Many from Colchester’s Layer Road crowd also hope that the Shrimpers will beat the drop before the season’s tide draws in. Some yearn for them to survive, purely in the interest of enjoying more Championship derby-day face-offs, even if all sympathy toward their current relegation flight, and the reported delay in clearance of plans for a new stadium, is for now suspended.
The game will unfold before the nation, live on Sky Sports; the histrionics are fresher than you would expect, mind, so hold on to your set-top box.
Last time the teams locked horns, it was a great affair for drama, but not so much a pristine spectacle. No refunds were given in October, as Mark Gower accused Colchester’s Karl Duguid of “play-acting” after the Southend man, along with his team-mate Kevin Maher, were both sent steaming out of the ‘Layer Drome’ auditorium for bad behaviour.
It’s nothing we didn’t sign up for – the Blues and U’s had spent the last part of the previous season flying the Essex flag at the League One summit. Only a neutral could possibly walk into this Dodge City shootout of a tie, in other words, and dismiss the importance attached to gaining local bragging rights inherited with a winning result.
The common thread connecting the teams, apart from closeness, is an obvious like of stability. Of all the current Championship bosses, Steve Tilson is on of the longest-serving, having been appointed in 2003, and he will be hoping that none of his XI chooses to have another “off day”, which is how he described it when they surrendered to Hull City last Saturday, losing for the first time in four games.
A sideshow to this encounter, probably causing Essex blood to boil, is that respective rival hotshots Jamie Cureton and Freddie Eastwood, who now has 65 Southend goals since 2004, could link up internationally, after Welsh manager John Toshack admitting he needs more firepower going forward.
The prospective paring has become a real possibility after the Daily Mail this week reported Eastwood’s grandfather is from Lianelli. It follows Cureton’s assertion earlier in the year that his grandmother also hails from the country, apparently making the 31-year old eligible, despite previous appearances England at youth level.
Of Eastwood, 23, the Mail confirmed that the Welsh FA have been in contact: “The lad seems sure, and we’ve been pursuing this for some time, but we have to make the necessary checks.”
Not that talk of gaining international honours is unheard of in Essex, because Chris Iwelumo has made his desire to represent Scotland extremely plain on countless occasions.
He recently claimed his comments were altered: “I was misquoted when I said I should have put ‘Mac’ in front of my name for people to come and watch me.
“I once had a call-up to the Scotland B squad, but Stoke were in the play-offs so I missed out. It’s still my dream to play for Scotland.”
Southend and Colchester also both harbour dreams of playing in new stadiums by the start of 2008/9 season, although the Shrimpers’ plans were reeled in by the department of Media, Sport and Culture this week for inspection, which will cause a sufficient delay. The club are said to be “very disappointed.”
Colchester have also experienced interruptions in the building of their Community Stadium, as explained by Supporters’ Association chairman, John Burns: “Set backs are distressing, but unfortunately in a project as complex as this, they are to be expected; I urge all U’s fans to keep faith as best they can.
“What I do find annoying, however, is that an apparent lack of signed paperwork [which is preventing the start of construction] is such a basic and unnecessary delay.”