Four reasons it’s going wrong for Kevin Bond at Southend Unitedby Gabriel Sutton / 30 August 2019, 08:31Tweet
Southend United are in League One’s relegation zone after starting their season with five consecutive defeats.
They are also out of the EFL Cup, following a 4-1 home loss to MK Dons – a relegation battle looks in the offing.
How much responsibility should manager Kevin Bond take for the early season struggles?
We take a look...
Where we should have some sympathy for Bond is the financial issues at Southend.
The club had difficulty paying all player and staff wages in full on time going into the summer.
While that instance looks more likely to be a one-off than an indication of a more severe problem like the ones at Bolton and Bury, it hardly helped the club enter the transfer market on the correct footing.
Chairman Ron Martin took over the club in 1998; since then, he appears to have been the main or only person funding the club, because he has dealt with various debts including a 2009 tax bill to stop the club going into administration.
It might be that Martin had a lot of money relative to the level when he first took over; the fact they won two promotions in his first decade at the helm supports that possibility.
However, 21 years of funding a club is likely to impact anyone’s bank balance and as the disparity between League One and the Championship continues to grow, one wonders whether it is becoming increasingly difficult for Martin to make a proactive, positive decision for the club.
Phil Brown was not always flavour of the month even while results were going well, Chris Powell came under criticism despite the horrible injury crisis during his time in charge and now many fans appear to be calling for Kevin Bond to be dismissed.
There is certainly a valid argument to be made about whether Bond is going about things correctly, but fundamentally, Southend need to make the correct investments in infrastructure to attract and then afford a higher calibre of player that will allow them to arrest the decline.
The highs of victories like that contrast with the lows felt by the opposition.— Wycombe Wanderers (@wwfcofficial) August 24, 2019
Gareth Ainsworth believes his good friends Kevin Bond, Gary Waddock and @Harry12971 will now turn a corner with @SUFCRootsHall. #WYCvSOU pic.twitter.com/J8uERcEWxa
The aforementioned issues feed into the poor recruitment that we have seen this summer.
Of course, Powell made some mistakes in the market but he also added the likes of Stephen Humphrys and Tom Hopper; he was unlucky that the latter, so crucial in leading the line, got injured back in October.
Bond has got the best out of striker Brandon Goodship, who has stepped up surprisingly well to the third tier since signing from Weymouth; the striker scored in the 4-3 loss at Wycombe, where Southend at least looked a threat going forward.
Liam Ridgewell, Mark Milligan, Joe Shaughnessy, Layton Ndukwu and Andre Blackman though have not truly improved the squad.
Is that because Bond and the scouting team have not identified the right players, or is it because the club simply do not have the means to attract better? Possibly a mixture of the two.
Despite SUFC's terrible performances, we should not make it personal, Kevin Bond seems to be a good man who is struggling, by all means replace him , but don't destroy the man— John David Wood (@JohnDavidWood59) August 28, 2019
No Leonard replacement
Under Phil Brown, Southend United won promotion from League Two via the Play-Offs in dramatic circumstances in 2014-15, then became Play-Off outsiders for the following two seasons in the division above.
A key factor behind their rise was the performances of Ryan Leonard.
The midfielder was a tough tackler for Southend; he showed great defensive awareness as well as sublime leadership qualities.
Since Leonard went to Sheffield United then Millwall, the Essex club have had holding midfielders like the languid Timothee Dieng and veteran Mark Milligan, who are not quite as mobile and thus have not protected the defence in the same way.
Lack of fitness
Kevin Bond has tried to get Southend playing short but has had three main problems.
Firstly, when the Shrimpers have possession, there are not enough runners in behind stretching the play or looking for space – meaning a five or 10-yard, sideways pass is often the only option.
Secondly, when they do not have possession, they do not press as high as they did when Bond first came in.
Thirdly, Southend have produced only 15-20 minute spells of pressure within their games.
We saw brief bursts from them at the end of both halves in the opening day 1-0 loss at Coventry, a late surge in the 3-1 home defeat to Blackpool when handed a man advantage, a competitive start to the 4-0 loss at Lincoln, then finished the first half of the 2-0 defeat to Peterborough strongly with Manchester United loanee Ethan Hamilton showing signs of life in midfield.
While these segments represent vague seeds of promise within their performances, they have not been substantial enough to inspire any belief that results will improve, especially with the team performing well below-par for long periods of their games.
If that does not change, then Southend could find themselves in a difficult situation come April – with or without Bond.