After coming so close to the play-offs in 2016/17, Phil Brown will be seeking improvement with Southend United at Roots Hall. The former Hull City boss has built a solid League One side in Essex and has rebuilt strongly despite losing two regular first team players in Adam Thompson and Will Atkinson who left for Bury and Mansfield respectively.
Brown has signed well, bringing in experience as well as quality. With a tough opening day fixture against newly relegated Blackburn Rovers, the Shrimpers will be after a good start to what could be an exciting campaign. Here are three things that Southend fans will be hoping to see in the opening weeks of the 2017/18 campaign…
To have their first choice eleven settled ASAP
Last season, the Blues failed to nail down their best eleven until mid-October and paid the price. At that point, they looked like relegation favourites and couldn’t get a win for love nor money. By the end of the season, they were promotion candidates and the form team in League One.
Phil Brown hasn’t learnt his lesson, still leaving it until days before the season kicks off to sign Rob Kiernan as only his third central defender. Still, there is time for him to get his starting eleven ready earlier than last season and the Shrimpers only missed out by the narrowest of margins on a play-off spot.
Hope that their veterans can avoid injury
Southend’s starting eleven is one of the strongest in League One. The issue lies in that beyond that eleven, there is very little depth. Michael Turner is already set to miss the start of the season, perhaps not such a surprise after only 15 games in two season, and an injury to Anton Ferdinand would leave the side with only one fit centre-back.
Michael Kightly is another high profile signing, but yet again injury prone. If injury does strike and Southend lose another one or two key players, alongside Ben Coker as he recovers from a broken leg and Nile Ranger rebuilding his fitness after a stay in prison, it could prove to be decisive.
Give Dru Yearwood a shot
The 17-year-old has been hugely impressive in pre-season and has immediately earner plaudits for his all action displays, earning him a four year deal. With doubts continuing to surround the future of Ryan Leonard, it could be a crucial season for Yearwood to make his breakthrough.
In the past, Phil Brown has given the likes of Jack Payne and Dan Bentley the chance to shine and develop and they have gone on to bigger and better things. He must put his faith in Yearwood and help him to improve, as whilst he has all the attributes to succeed, he may not be quite ready yet.