Stan Collymore at Southend United was a force of nature. Plucked from obscurity by Colin Murphy for £100,000 from Crystal Palace reserves in 1992, he arrived at Southend with no reputation. When he left Southend in June 1993 his reputation was sky high.
So what made Stanley Victor Collymore such a key player for Southend. The man was explosive, he would get the ball with his back to the goal, 30 yards out, turn and strike fear into the opposing defence. With his strength and power he would blast past the defence, and rifle the ball home. In 33 games for Southend in league and cup, he scored 18 goals. This run of form, saved Southend Utd from certain relegation. To say they were a one man team, would be unfair as players like Brett Angell and club legend Steve Tilson chipped in with vital goals, but there was no doubt Stan Collymore was the catalyst.
A further legacy of Stan's Southend career was when he was sold to Nottingham Forest for £2.2m, it enabled Barry Fry the then manager, to re-invest the money into a entirely new team, players such as Ricky Otto, Tommy Mooney, Graham Bressington, Jonathan Hunt, Gary Poole, the list goes on and on. This entirely new side went joint top of the 1st Division(the Championship these days) the following season after a 3-1 away win at Derby County. Who knows what would have happened to that Southend side, if Fry was not tempted away by Birmingham in December of that season.
If you wanted a goal to sum up Stan Collymore at Southend, then his 2nd goal away at Huddersfield in the FA Cup is it. Skill, pace, power and a keen eye for goal.
His three goals in that cup run, against Millwall and Huddersfield, got Southend the plum tie of Sheffield Wednesday away in the 5th round. Collymore had a goal controversially disallowed in the 1st half when the score was 0-0, and he tormented the Sheffield Wednesday defence for 90minutes. This game proved that Collymore was destined for the top.
Southend were battling against the drop all season, and in the last six games of the campaign, Southend had relegation six pointers against Bristol Rovers, Grimsby and Luton. What none of these sides had though, was Stan Collymore. Against Bristol Rovers he scored one of the greatest goals I have ever seen. He picked the ball up 40 yards from goal, ran at the Rovers defence and curled a sublime shot into the top corner. It was a magnificent goal.
Before the Grimsby game I saw David Pleat the then Luton manager, and in my cheeky teenage youth, I asked him why he was at the game, the exchange went as follows:
Me - "David why are you watching the game"
Pleat - "I'm here to sign Collymore"
Me -"Not a f**king chance"
Pleat laughed and said that Collymore was going to be a great player, and on that night against Grimsby on a rain-lashed Roots Hall pitch he proved it again. The man was a maelstrom. He single-handedly carried Southend through that game, and again scored the winning goal.
It all went down to a final day shootout against Luton town. It was fitting maybe that Collymore did not score the goals in that game, but other un-sung members of the Southend side, Andy Sussex and Brett Angell, scored the goals that kept Southend up. Stan's contribution in that game however cannot be understated, he scored one of the greatest goals which had the misfortune of being disallowed in a game. A 20yard shot which went like a tracer bullet. As the final whistle went, I remember running onto the pitch, trying to get close to Stan, but by the time I got there, he was already lofted above the fans shoulders. We knew that season we had seen true footballing genius.
Stan Collymore himself said of his time at Southend "I count keeping Southend in the First Division in my season there as one of my greatest achievements."
I have seen a lot of football in my life, but for that 8months Stanley Victor Collymore was at Roots Hall, he will remain as one of the greatest players I have ever had the pleasure of seeing live.
Chris Clark © 2014 @