Sunday, 27th Jan 2008 13:34
For the second time in four days we visit a side relegated last season, and we face Southend United on Tuesday night, with the kick off at 7.45.
At one stage this game was to be played on the Monday night for live coverage on Sky, but it’s now been moved back to the Tuesday and it won’t be televised. The reason is that Southend United played their FA cup tie with Barnsley on Friday night, and Leeds felt it would give them an unfair advantage if we had to play having had 19 hours less rest since the last game. So I hope you didn’t decide not to travel to Southend as you could to watch it on TV, as you might now be struggling to get a ticket.
Roots Hall is about a mile and a half to the north of the town centre. By car you will come into Southend on the A127, and you should continue through the lights near to the Bell Pub. At the next roundabout turn right (3rd turning), continuing on the A127. The ground is on the right just past the next set of traffic lights. If you turn right as you reach the ground, this will put you behind the away end where there is plenty of street parking. Otherwise there is a car park at the ground, behind the Main Stand.
There are two railway lines from London to Southend. The route from Fenchurch Street is more direct, but this will bring you to Southend Central, which is 25 minutes walk from the ground, though you could get a bus from the main bus station, which is nearby. The nearest railway station is Prittlewell, (on the route from Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria), which is only five minutes walk from Roots Hall. Outside the station you need to turn right, and you will then come to a crossroads with traffic lights. On your right is the 'Fish House', fish and chip shop. Pass this and turn right. Walk about 100 yards and the ground is tucked away on your left.
There a couple of pubs nearby that are usually OK for away fans to use, the 'Spread Eagle' and the 'Golden Lion', which are only yards apart on the A127, just up from the car park entrance to the Main Stand. Another option if you're coming in by car is 'The Bell' (see road directions above). But you won't get into the 'Shrimpers Bar' at the ground itself, which is for members only. The best takeaway is the 'Fish House' on the route from Prittlewell station (see directions above).
Roots Hall has been the home of Southend United since August 1955, and for the next 33 years it was the youngest ground in the Football League, until Scunthorpe's move to Glanford Park in 1988 began the modern day spate of clubs building indetikit new stadia. By 1964 it had a capacity of 35,000, mainly due to the huge South Bank terrace, which was built onto the side of a hill. But in the 1980s Southend were hit by more stringent safety regulations, and the clubs difficult financial position prompted them to sell most of the South Bank for development, leaving just a small terrace at the foot of the hill, though an upper tier was added to this end in 1994. Today Roots Hall has an all-seater capacity of 12,392.
We have been given 2,000 tickets for this game, which is the larger of the two possible allocations, as the less well-supported visiting teams only get 1,200. Away fans now occupy the North Stand, one of the older parts of the ground, with a 'barrel' shaped roof and seats that have simply been bolted onto the former terracing. So the legroom isn't great, though I doubt that will affect us, when we will probably stand up throughout the game as usual. There are also quite a number of pillars to block our view. Refreshments are served from a 'Transport Cafe' type place, and consist of the usual football scoff, including pies (£2), cheeseburgers (£2.30), hot dogs (£2) and chips (80p). Oh, and the toilets are pretty substandard, to say the least. For these excellent facilities we have to pay £20 for adults, with concessions at £12 and children £10.
Southend’s official website is still advertising on-line ticket sales for this game, but they warn that “all tickets sold via the internet are for home areas and supporters only. Away team supporters purchasing these tickets risk rejection from the ground with no refund”. Do they mean ‘ejection’? The word ‘rejection’ suggests you could be stopped from going in if they realise you’re a Leeds fan at the turnstile, but you couldn’t be thrown out once you’re inside.
As Roots Hall has become a little bit run down by modern day standards, the club are hoping to move to a new all seated 22,000 capacity stadium at Fossetts Farm, just behind their training ground. This would cost £12.5 million and comprise a two tier main stand with curved roof, plus three one tier sides, enclosed at the corners. The club are currently hoping to get planning permission for this scheme, and for the plans to put houses on the site of Roots Hall, which is needed to finance this scheme. They had hoped to have the new stadium ready for the start of next season, but that won’t now be possible, and at the moment they don’t know when they will be able to start work on the new stadium.
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