While Essex might be regarded as one of the dominant UK regions (after all, what other counties boast their own TV show, that has won multiple awards?), when it comes to football it certainly struggles. In fact, at the time of writing, the highest placed Essex side is Colchester United – with the U’s currently sat in the relegation zone in League One.
Taking into account the above, I’ll now delve into the “top” selection of clubs in Essex and ponder just why they are faring so badly – and see if there is any chance that the county will see a surge in success in football in the near future.
Top Dogs: Colchester United
For the past few years Colchester have been flying the flag for Essex, with the U’s even at one point finding themselves in the upper reaches of the Championship. Unfortunately, such success was short-lived and when Phil Parkinson left several years ago, that seemed to be the point which signalled the downward spiral for the club. Admittedly, there were flashes of brilliance under the likes of Geraint Williams and a certain Paul Lambert, but there’s no doubt that Colchester’s best stint in recent history came around five years ago.
Nowadays, they are battling to stay in League One. They currently occupy 21st position and with two point keeping them adrift of the safety zone, it would be fair to say that Colchester are set to embark on a real fight to stay in the division. Many supporters were excited following the appointment of Joe Dunne in September yet despite a promising start, the club are currently on a run that has seen them lose nine straight games. Suffice to say, Dunne’s position is under threat and if he, or his potential successor, cannot turn around the U’s fortunes around, they could become the latest Essex side to ply their trade in England’s bottom division.
Next in Line: Southend
Coincidently, Southend also shared their most productive run in recent history at the same time as Colchester several years ago. They too reached the Championship and while they battled relegation the whole time, they still brought a moderate amount of success to Essex.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone and the Roots Hall outfit are all the way in the basement division, League Two. The relegation to this level came in 2010 and unfortunately, this was also the time that the club decided Steve Tilson’s seven year association should come to an end. Since the relegation, they’ve attempted to rebuild and finished just outside the automatic promotion places in 4th last term. They look to be heading for another playoff push under Paul Sturrock and in some respects, it could be said they are the most exciting team in Essex to watch this term. They sit just one place outside of the playoffs and should Colchester suffer the drop, Southend may at least be able to replace them and provide a League One side for the county.
Last But Not Least: Braintree Town
The final club I’ll take a look at is Braintree Town. For those that are not quite tuned up on the lower leagues, there might be some trouble in identifying Braintree. They’ve never played league football, while the fact they are currently regarded as the third most successful club in Essex speaks volumes about the frailties of the county. Furthermore, it would hardly be fair to describe Braintree s an established Conference National side, with the club only reaching this level fairly recently. There appears little chance that they will join Southend and Colchester in the reaches of league football either, with Town situated in 17th place in the Conference National – three points above the relegation zone.
As you may gather, every other club in Essex is playing non-league football. It’s clear there is a huge problem in the county and with both Colchester and Southend being a long way from being successful league clubs, you just have to wonder if the region will ever be able to boast a Premier League club.