Men Against Boys As Concord Conquer Shell Shocked Shrimpers
By Gerry Smith
Sometimes (or quite often if you're like me) you get a mental block when trying to write about what you've just seen. Today, for me, is sadly no exception. Six goals, some of which were high quality, were scored, but somehow the game itself just by-passed the crowd at Thames Road this afternoon.
It's at times like this, however, that this mind full of irrelevant trivia can think back to see where the clubs have come from, and perhaps pontificate on where they may be heading to.
For Southend United, this was no more than a run-out for their under 18's.
Their recent history, at both senior and boardroom level, has been well documented both here and elsewhere.
What many people may not realise is that, also in this small corner of South Essex, there has been a remarkable success story. What Concord Rangers have achieved since the world seemingly went into economic meltdown, has been nothing short of staggering.
In 2008, the Canvey based club had just prevailed in the closest and most dramatic Essex Senior League title shoot-out ever. With just one game of the entire season to go, three teams could still win the title, and with it promotion to the Ryman League.
The hosts Barkingside knew a resounding victory would make them champions. A narrow win would ensure the title went to Enfield 1893, the team and supporters watching helplessly from the sidelines.
Rangers, however, the third protagonist, held their nerve. Needing to just avoid defeat, they scored the only goal of the game just on the hour mark at an unbearably tense Oakside to be crowned ESL champions of 2007/08 and go up.
The global economy was in ruins, the scandal of MP's expenses just around the corner, and Michael Jackson was soon to bow out from the concert of life. At Thames Road, however, the club with a tiny fanbase, but with an enthusiastic chairman digging into his pockets, and plenty of committed volunteers, simply went about their business, cocking a snook to accusations of buying success.
It is an example of having money being one thing, but what you do with it making all the difference. The club had for a long while played second fiddle to Canvey Island, a club of FA Trophy winning and Conference quality, before regrouping in the Ryman League when funding was cut.
The Beach Boys, however, became the island's noisy neighbours. Promotion from the Ryman One North was achieved in just two seasons, via the play-offs. Then from 2010 up to this summer, they inflicted on their derby rivals a number of humiliating defeats, winning 5 out of their 6 league clashes.
To complete their remarkable rise, though, with attendances which could be kindly described as having plenty of potential for improvement, the unthinkable happened in 2012/13. With a late season surge, they reached the play-offs, and incredibly won them, with both their games won away from their Thames Road base.
All of this done, too, with a backdrop of sniping and Chinese whispers locally. There is the age old argument of money. Again, though, it means nothing if not used wisely. There's also talk of their low crowds.
On this score, though, some detractors may have a point. On a freezing late Autumn Tuesday evening last season, Concord plied their trade against then leaders Hampton & Richmond. Those in attendance commented on how low the crowd was.It looked less than 100.
When the official attendance was announced at over 200, mine weren't the only eyebrows raised. Although not many more than mine. If season ticket holders are always counted in their figures, though, whether they turn up or not, that would explain the difference between the PA announcement and what our eyes saw that night.
Another barb, although mentioned a lot less, has been a perceived attitude of moaning and shouting on the pitch and touchlines. Let's be fair on this, every single team at this level, and below, does exactly the same thing, to either a lesser or greater extent.
It's not something this oldie likes to see or hear but it's - depressingly - part and parcel of the fame. Concord's antics are simply noticed more because of the rise and rise of the club in recent years. They can be petulant but so too can everyone else. The beautiful game indeed.
It was from this backdrop that the Beach Boys are about to embark on their inaugural season in the Conference South. Just two promotions away from the Football League. A wonderful achievement, money laden or not.
With Southend United having played the evening before, and a youth side up against a strong Concord squad of men raringcto go, a one sided drubbing was on the cards.
Which is exactly how it turned out. Ahead from only the third minute, when Ogilvie's free kick smashed against the crossbar for Jason Hallett to nod home, Rangers were comfortable.
They could even afford a penalty being saved by the impressive Shrimpers custodian Teddy Smith, before Jason Hallett doubled his and Concord's tally just before the break with a neat lob, although a seemingly blatant shove on his opponent before scoring was somehow missed by the referee, who was just having one of those off days.
It's not something that affected the result though. Mitchell Pinnock aside, who looks a very promising Southend United diamond that hugely respected youth coach Ricky Duncan has unearthed, the visitors were simply overrun in the second half.
Jacob Cleaver made the game safe as early as the third minute of the second half with a smart finish inside the area, then Jason Hallett completed his hat-trick with a well taken low free kick with 17 minutes left.
Sub, Tony Stokes joined the goal party, too, with a header and a shot in the space of three minutes late onxadding to Southend's misery.
As full-time eventually came, we really learned very little. Concord Rangers are fit, motivated, and raring to go. Southend United youths are simply not cut out for this level for such a young aged side, although they have one or two bright prospects. The result was expected, although perhaps not such a wide scoreline.
It is perhaps just as well that the recent history of Concord has been dipped into, as that's exactly where the Beach Boys will be also dipping into for their inspiration as they prepare to make Conference South history in the coming season. In South Essex, non league football's noisy neighbours are about to shout from the rooftops.
The next nine months could be loud down Thames Road way. Very loud.
[B]Concord Rangers 6, Southend United 0[/B]