WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
We catch up with Southend United’s 1980-81 Division Four winners
THE SHRIMPERS refused to feel sorry for themselves when they were relegated at Hull City on the final day of the 1979-80 season.
They had spent only two seasons in the Third Division, but a lack of ambition from the club board, selling their best players, meant survival was always going to be an uphill battle.
But the return to the basement of English football proved to be a springboard back after they didn’t lose in any of their opening six games.
Southend made their Roots Hall base a fortress, remaining unbeaten there all season, while Derek Spence and Terry Gray scored 38 goals between them.
Northern Ireland international Spence, who was the leading scorer with 21 goals, believes they should not have had to return to the Fourth Division, but, when they did, they had something to prove.
“You had better believe we were determined to get promotion,” he said. “Nobody wants to play in the Fourth Division for very long, but the bottom line was we were so unlucky to get relegated on the last day.
“We absolutely murdered Hull and got beaten 1-0.
“I am a firm believer that if your name is on it, no matter how hard you try, you aren’t going to get any luck.
“I knew that team was a good team, but we just didn’t get any luck in the last few matches.”
Southend would go on to win their first-ever league title, finishing with 67 points, two ahead of Lincoln City and with the others 11 points further back.
Spence says that, from the minute the players returned to pre-season training, he knew they were going to have a successful season.
“I should have put my house on us going back up. In the preseason we put in plenty of effort, beat West Ham and Norwich City very well. Everyone was focused on getting up,” he said.
“I am not a gambling man, but I should have known we would go up without any problems. We started off like a house on fire and went on to prove it.
“I have to say that Southend team has to be in the top two I have ever played for. There wasn’t much in it between them and the Blackpool side I played for in the 1975-76 season.
“It would have been one hell of a match between that Southend team and the Blackpool side and, with Southend, we played some really good football.
“It wasn’t just muck and net- steward in Surrey for many years but has now retired to his native North East. 9. Garry Nelson: Winger who won promotions with Plymouth Argyle and Brighton but is now back in Essex. He was a PFA officer and is now a marketing executive. 10. Keith Mercer: Forward who won two promotions with Watford. Worked as a sales rep and minicab driver while also providing stats for the Press Association. 11. Tony Hadley: Central defender who won two promotions with Southend and became a train driver between London and Southend. 12. Micky Stead: Full-back who was an FA Youth Cup winner with Tottenham. Now a taxi driver based in Harlow, Essex. 13. Andy Polycarpou: Midfielder who won two promotions with Southend. Went to work in the family fashion business but now owns a couple of furniture shops in Hertfordshire. 14. Phil Dudley: Full-back who played 100-plus games for Southend. He has been a director of The Stone Company in Chelmsford for 20 years. 15. Brian Beckett: Assistant manager who sadly died in Jersey from Hodgkin’s disease in 1990. 16. Steve Yates: Left-back who later won a promotion with Doncaster. He returned to his native Measham and was a hospital driver, but now works in ceramics. 17. Derek Spence: Northern Ireland striker who won a promotion with Bury and then ran off licences until becoming community officer at Blackpool. 18. Ron Pountney: Midfielder who was Southend’s Player of the Year three times, settling in the town where he became a painter and decorator 19. Dave Smith: The manager is now based near Plymouth, where he ran his own soccer school for more than 20 years. 20. John Watson: A player who never made the grade but is living in Upminster and works locally. 21. Jeff Hull: Midfielder who made 100 league appearances before injury ended his career. He went to work for HSBC in London and then coached in schools. 22. Terry Gray: Winger who was player of the year at Huddersfield. He became a financial consultant and lives in Liversedge. 23. Frankie Banks: Served the club for more than 50 years after joining aged 13. 24. Alan Hull: Forward who won promotion with Leyton Orient and went to work for a merchant bank in the City. Younger brother of Jeff. 25. Mark Whitmore: Right-back who went to work in a London photography agency 26. Neil Gregory: Midfielder who went to work for his father in the family timber business. 27. Glenn Pennyfather: Midfielder who won promotions with Ipswich and Crystal Palace before becoming a PE teacher and has also managed Chelmsford City. 28. John Wiskin: He became a CCTV systems salesman but is now living in South Africa.