We catch up with Southend United’s 1980-81 Di­vi­sion Four win­ners

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Neil Fissler

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.

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