God Bless Mitch

Mitchell Cole was signed by Southend United in July 2005 for £45,000 from Grays Athletic. He fitted into Steve Tilson’s promising side from the start as a fleet footed left winger. In August scored his first Southend goal against local rivals Colchester United in a 3-1 triumph at Roots Hall. He played in 32 League One games that season which culminated in a last day title clinching victory over BristolCity.

The following season was less successful for Mitchell managing only five appearances. His lack of first team opportunities saw him loaned out to NorthamptonTown. He left Roots Hall at the end of the season joining then Conference side Stevenage Borough. He was to be a huge success at Broadhall Way, during his stay Boro would win the FA Trophy twice and gain promotion to the Football League. He was also capped 14 times for the England C international team.

He signed for League Two side Oxford United for the 2010/11 season but after just a handful of games he was tragically diagnosed with the heart muscle disease Cardiomyopathy. Mitchell retired from professional football in February 2011 but still turned out for a variety of non-league clubs including Stotfold, HitchinTown, BiggleswadeTown and ArleseyTown.

When the world watched in horror at Fabrice Muamba’s on pitch heart attack, the shocking incident resonated loudly for Cole and he decided to turn his back on football for good for the sake of his health.

Waking up on December 1st 2012 came with the terrible news that 27 year old Mitchell Cole had died overnight just weeks before becoming a father for the third time with his wife Charly.

While a number of his former clubs and team mates paid their own tributes, I remember clearly what a sombre mood enveloped Roots Hall at the next home game after his death. In the 14th minute (his shirt number at Southend) of the game against Bradford City, the home support struck up a song in memory of Mitchell Cole. His name was chanted for a full fourteen minutes. It was truly emotive stuff.

Fast forward six months and a benefit match arranged for Mitchell Cole was announced by Stevenage. Attending the match just seemed like the decent thing to do, gate money to be split in support of his young family and the Cardiomyopathy charity. I am glad I went, it was a privilege to attend and remember this talented young player who had lit up Roots Hall in that championship winning season. Stevenage hosted the game with great dignity and class and credit must also be given to the West Ham United players who played the first half despite still being “in season” in the Premier League.

The match itself was a feast of goals, the West Ham contingent dominating the first half with some classy play and terrific goals. The home crowd were in good humour welcoming back some old favourites. For me it was great to see a number of ex Shrimpers on the field including Kevin Maher, Mark Beard, Stuart Thurgood and particularly Alan McCormack. The Swindon captain putting the disappointment of a play-off defeat the previous day to turn out for his former team mate. It was somehow symbolic of a classy occasion.

There could be an argument had in some quarters over some of his former clubs failing to organise a memorial game, but I guess having to arrange a game such as this at all is just such a terrible shame. God Bless you Mitch.

Mitchell Cole Benefit Match

Tuesday May 7th 2013

Stevenage XI (2) 4 (Beardsley 5, Wilson 22, Hayles 55, Griffin 79)

Mitchell Cole XI (6) 7 (Noble 15, Jarvis 20,39, Nolan 21, Collins 24, Carroll 38, Battersby 71)

Attendance: 2,306 (at the Lamex Stadium, Stevenage F.C.)

Stevenage XI:

1.Ashley Bayes; 2. Mark Beard; 3. John Nutter; 4. Joel Byron; 5. Peter Vincenti; 6. Mark Roberts ©; 7.Lawrie Wilson; 8. Dino Maamria; 9. Jack Midson; 10. Chris Beardsley; 11. Stacy Long.


12. Gary Mills (for 2, 46 mins); Jon Nurse (for 8, 46 mins); 15. Barry Hayles (for 11, 46 mins); 16. Tim Sills (for 9, 46 mins); 17. Charlie Griffin (for 10, 46 mins); 28. Chris Day (for 1, 46 mins)

Mitchell Cole XI

1. Alan Julien; 2. Barry Fuller; 3. Adam Miller; 4. Kevin Nolan; 5. James Collins; 6. Kevin Maher; 7. Matt Jarvis; 8. Mark Noble; 9. Andy Carroll; 10. Joe Cole ©; 11. John Martin.


12. Alan McCormack (for 6, 46 mins); 14. Stuart Lewis (for 7, 46 mins); 15. Stuart Thurgood (for 4, 46 mins); 16. Martin Carthy (for 3, 68 mins); 17. Leroy Griffiths (for 5, 46 mins); 18. Gary Hooper (for 9, 46 mins); 19. Paul Hakim (for 11, 68 mins); 20. Mark Arber (for 2, 68 mins); 22. Craig Dobson (for 8, 46 mins); 25. Tony Battersby (for 10, 46 mins); 28. Danny Potter (for 1, 46 mins).




Abiding Memories

Southend United playing in a cup final at the iconic home of football always seemed destined to elude the faithful bunch of supporters that have followed the Shrimpers through some very hard times. Even near misses have been somewhat reluctant to head our way since the F.A. introduced an ever changing plethora of minor competitions designed to give its “associate” members a chance to shine, albeit for just one day.  A penalty shoot out loss to Notts County in the erstwhile Anglo-Italian Cup in 1993/94 and an LDV area final loss to Brentford in 2000/01 saw the Shrimpers looking on like a kid locked out of a toy shop at Christmas.

Even a spell of sustained success under former player Steve Tilson which saw the club reach two LDV Finals and a League Two play-off Final in an exciting 14 month period saw each occasion savoured, but inevitably diluted by the fact each was held 200 miles away in the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

So would Southend ever get to enjoy a day in the sun at Wembley Stadium? It was looking as far away as ever as the club slipped from one financial crisis to another, transfer embargos, players not getting paid, winding up orders and the very real spectre of administration have dogged recent campaigns. Step forward Paul Sturrock, softly spoken genial Scotsman and the latest man charged with moulding a rag-tag bunch of footballing  journeymen and hopeful youngsters into something resembling a football team. The season was unfolding into another campaign of abject disappointment with woeful home form dogging the team from the opening day. However, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy was proving a welcome distraction. The early rounds saw AFC Wimbledon, Dagenham and Redbridge and even League One promotion chasers Brentford were comfortably dispatched at Roots Hall. We were then handed an away tie in the semi-final against Oxford United. A 3-3 draw saw the tie go to a penalty shoot out. Sturrock pulled out his trump card a substituted experienced goalkeeper Paul Smith for youngster Daniel Bentley, a stunt that had come off against Bury in the FA Cup a month previously. Again the rookie made the vital save to see the Blues through to the Area Final.

Old adversaries Leyton Orient, of League One, stood in the way of a grand day out for the club and some welcome revenue for the scarily empty club coffers. On a muddy pitch at Brisbane Road, an opportunist goal from Ryan Leonard gave us a slender lead for the home leg. A tense battle looked heading towards the East Londoners when Ben Reeves, a youngster on loan from Southampton, scuffed the ball into the net as injury time commenced. Dramatically and unbelievably the die had been cast and our day had come, Wembley beckoned.

Estimating how many tickets a club averaging gates under 5,000 for the season would or could sell were reduced to plucking numbers from the air. When the first day of sale came though, people came in their droves. Queues redolent of communist era shortages at Moscow’s GUMM stores snaked around the car park and lasted all day. And the day after, and the day after that. It was clear Southend was gearing up for its biggest day out ever. 16,000 were sold before they went on general sale and ended up exceeding the 31,033 tickets sold for the club’s largest ever attendance against then European Champions Liverpool some 34 years previously.

In the run up to the Final, Sturrock had the rug pulled from under him, divested of his opportunity to walk out with his team at Wembley. Dismissed and replaced by Phil Brown, the gentlemanly Scot magnanimously turning down the chairman’s limp olive branch offer of a pseudo mascot role at Wembley.  

So the big day finally arrived, coaches, trains and cars headed to North London outnumbering the opposition supporters by more than three to one. Crewe would be stern opposition, they, after all, ended our play-off hopes in clinical fashion the previous season and were acquitting themselves pretty well in the third tier.

Team selection was a hot topic, errant tour-de-force Bilel Mohsni was placed in an unfamiliar centre midfield role. Injured skipper Chris Barker was returned to the side after weeks out. Mark Phillips, battle worn infantryman that had selflessly subjected himself to eight pain killing injections to get us through the Area Final was dumped into a non-laying substitute role. Worse still Ryan Leonard, a hard working unsung hero who had scored the vital Area Final goal, was sat in the stands looking forlornly on. Our recent poor run of form and inevitable nerves manifested as early as the sixth minute. Crewe’s training ground corner was lashed into the net by Luke Murphy and we already had a mountain to climb. Impressive youngster Max Clayton doubled the advantage just after the break and the game was effectively over. A bold double substitution briefly rekindled the dying flame but ultimately it was not to be. In truth Crewe were worthy winners on the day.

My memories of the day are numerous and will remain with me always. Looking back from Bobby Moore’s statue, himself with Southend connections, and seeing a tidal wave of blue humanity coursing down from WembleyPark station was emotive enough in itself. A cornucopia of former players turning up on their own volition with their own tickets was heart warming. Hearing that long term supporters had taken photos of their fathers in their pockets to share the day with them was somehow emblematic of the extended family that is our core support. Furthermore seeing people I had not seen for years and remembering those that had longed for this day to happen but had passed away before a dream had become real were part of a truly memorable occasion. No trophy but plentiful memories that will abide with me.

Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final

Sunday April 7th 2013 – Wembley Stadium

Attendance: 43,842

Crewe Alexandra (1) 2 (Murphy 6, Clayton 49)

Southend United (0)0


1. Steve Phillips; 2.Matt Tootle; 3.Harry Davis; 5.Mark Ellis; 14.Kelvin Mellor; 8. Luke Murphy ©; 19. Abdul Osman; 26. Chuks Aneke; 31. Bradden Inman; 7.Max Clayton; 11.Byron Moore.

Subs: 10. A.J. Leitch-Smith (for 7, 83 mins); 12. Oliver Turton; 13. Alan Martin 17. George Ray (for 26, 90 mins); 27. Ryan Colclough (for 31, 69 mins).


1. Paul Smith; 2.Sean Clohessy; 23. Chris Barker; 6. Ryan Cresswell; 16. Luke Prosser; 14. Kevan Hurst; 28. Bilel Mohsni; 29. Tamika Mkandawire; 3. Anthony Straker; 20. Britt Assombalonga; 21. Gavin Tomlin.

Subs: 7. Freddy Eastwood (for 29, 77 mins); 10. Barry Corr (for 23, 57 mins); 15. Mark Phillips; 17. Daniel Bentley; 27. Ben Reeves (for 28, 57 mins).

Yellow Cards: Osman, Clayton (Crewe), Barker, Hurst (Southend).


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