SOUL OF SPORT: Southend United are clinging on to their existence after years of mismanagement. Barnet took all three points on Friday night, but fans are happy just to have a club to support – KEVIN QUIGLEY captures the mood in pictures
- Every week on a Monday, our Soul of Sport series will take readers behind the scenes at top sporting events
- Kevin Quigley travelled to south-east Essex to capture the raw emotions of Southend United fans on Friday
- His photographs give a perfect insight into the love supporters have for their local non-league football teams
Welcome back to the Soul of Sport. Sportsmail‘s photographers captured the optimism, passion and eventual heartbreak of Newcastle fans during their Carabao Cup final defeat against Manchester United last week and have returned to showcase yet another sporting event in rich detail behind the scenes.
From the riches of Carabao Cup glory to the rags of financial turmoil in non-league football, Sportsmail were keen to capture the raw emotion of fans on the brink of losing their club.
Therefore, for our second episode of the series, KEVIN QUIGLEY travelled to south-east Essex to visit National League side Southend United, who finally settled their £1.4million debt with HMRC last Tuesday but whose long-term future remains on a knife-edge.
Several supporters feared last month’s clash with Gateshead would mark the final ever match at Roots Hall for Southend, but fans turned up in droves to cheer on their side against Barnet on Friday – and protest the governance of chairman Ron Martin during the 1-0 defeat.
The match was emotional. It showed just how much football clubs mean to supporters. This is the soul of sport.
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Roots Hall Stadium, home to National League side Southend United, is no more than two miles away from the city’s seafront
Southend Pier is a key attraction for locals and tourists in the city – although is much busier during the warm summer months
Very few people were roaming the seafront on Friday – with several locals instead looking forward to Southend United’s match against Barnet, despite all the uncertainty that is cligning to the club right now under the ownership of Ron Martin
Fans congregate at the Blue Boar pub and enjoy a drink hours before kick-off, no more than 400 yards away from the stadium
Everyone was in good spirits ahead of kick-off at the local pub, hopeful of causing an upset against fourth-placed Barnet as Southend themselves remain locked in an unlikely play-off bid despite the discontent away from the pitch
A fan at the Blue Boar passionately points to their Southend United badge as a symbol of their support for the non-league club
Other Shrimpers fans grab a bite to eat at The Fish House before the match, a popular takeaway close to Roots Hall stadium
A sign ironically describes now as an ‘exciting era’ for Southend, who have been left on a cliff-edge due to financial struggles
A group of Southend supporters queue up outside the stadium ahead of their club’s National League clash against Barnet
Supporters could buy matchday programmes for £3 from the stadium, which serves as crucial income for non-league sides
Several fans took the opportunity to protest the mismanagement at Southend – calling for owner Martin to get out of the club
Southend’s mascot Sammy the Shrimp kept spirits high by interacting with supporters ahead of kick-off on Friday evening
The National League side, who sit eighth in the division, were not short of support with over 7,000 fans present at Roots Hall
It was a promising first half from the home side and Shrimpers supporters were optimistic they could earn a positive result
Burgers, pies and confectionary were on offer as fans tucked in to some half-time refreshments – with the score tied at 0-0
Shrimpers supporters take a moment away from the terraces to catch up and enjoy a drink during the half-time interval
As is often the way lower down the football pyramid, the supporters enjoy an excellent view of the match from their seats
Southend fans look on in anguish as Idris Kanu puts the visitors 1-0 ahead – with a goal that proved to be the winner on Friday
A crestfallen Shrimpers supporter hangs his head after watching his beloved Southend fall to a 1-0 defeat against Barnet
It wasn’t the result Southend supporters would have hoped for on Friday, but at least for now they still have a club to cheer on