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AGM 2010 and Craig Easton Q&A - 11th November 2010
Southend United club captain Craig Easton took time out of his schedule to attend the Shrimpers Trust Annual General Meeting on Thursday 11th November and, after the formal business of the evening had been concluded, he answered questions from the assembled supporters.

Having watched on intently to the reports from Trust chairman Paul FitzGerald, treasurer Darren Posnack and membership secretary Paul Yeomanson, Easton then saw the existing Officers voted back on before the Trust Board and General Committee - including new members Gary Crowe and Lesley Hicks - followed suit.

The 31-year-old moved onto the top table himself at around 8:50pm and answered questions for an hour. Having explained the general format for training during the week, including regeneration sessions after a match and a double-session on non-matchday Tuesdays, Easton soon settled into his stride.

Asked about Tuesday’s narrow 1-0 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat to Charlton Athletic, the former Leyton Orient midfielder talked about the role of the midfield in the reverse: “Even in the Torquay [United] match, sometimes we dropped too deep. I was saying to the other players on Tuesday night that we were doing that, but Charlton are a good side; they have got good forwards and it was a new defence for us,” he stated.

Easton was quick to quash any rumours of dressing room unrest after team-mates exchanged frank views to each other on the field in the home win over Rotherham United: “There was a wee bit the other day; Bilel [Mohsni]’s a bit mad! I can tell you now that 99% of the time, it only lasts as long as you saw on the pitch and that’s the end of it. Sometimes it’ll carry on a bit in the dressing room, but I’ll be honest and I say I don’t mind a little bit of that; it shows the team spirit we have.”

“Both the gaffer [Paul Sturrock] and Tommy [Widdrington] are good man-managers, and the players will respond to them. The team-talks are good and myself, Graham Coughlan and Chris Barker all chip in. It’s a great dressing room and the lads all get on together. That’s a good thing because, on the pitch, when you’re covering for a mate, you can make an extra tackle. Working hard is a minimum requirement, and only twice this season has the gaffer thought we could do more.”

“We brought in two lads in a position we needed to strengthen, and obviously we have Matt Paterson as well. We felt it was a chance at Macclesfield [Town] to see what the boys could do. For Barry [Corr] and Blair [Sturrock] it’s an incentive to get their place back in the team. Everyone wants to play football, including Barry, and he’ll respond,” the Scot declared later in the evening.

Over a number of seasons, the influx of loan players to Roots Hall has increased, and Easton acknowledged that this was now part of the game before explaining that it can work to a squad’s advantage: “You come into a squad and train; it’s really easy. Football’s that kind of game, so someone will usually know you. The two lads at Macclesfield last week did well and they’ll be healthy competition for Barry and Blair. That game was good as we were in a hotel, so we could have a laugh and a joke and bond a little,” he said.

“Any club that I have been to have used loan signings, and I think that it will happen more and more; that seems to be the way that football in going. [Nathaniel] Jarvis and [Wade] Fairhurst didn’t make an impression, but maybe these two lads will. At Orient when I was there the gaffer brought in a lad, Ryan Jarvis, and he scored a few goals at the end of the season to help us stay up.”

When quizzed about his decision to join the Shrimpers, the one-time Dundee United youngster was quick to praise his manager, going on to reveal that he could have signed for a Scottish Premier League club before electing to move to south-east Essex.

“I was only saying to the gaffer the other day that it must be hard for you as fans, but the lads who have come in are all committed; we don’t want to play in League Two. I don’t want to play in League Two. The gaffer has done well to bring players in,” he claimed.

“I was told by a few people not to touch Southend with a bargepole. I came down, and in training there were only eight players there, but I knew the gaffer and the players started coming in. Graham Coughlan said to me that the gaffer would get players in and he did.”

“It’s testament to the gaffer that people want to come to play down and play for him. He’s had a lot of success, and it was his draw that attracted them. I’ve worked with him three times now. It was a hard choice for me; Terry Butcher wanted me to go to Inverness, and I’ve played for him before at Dundee United, but I felt it was a bigger challenge here.”

With widespread changes to personnel in the squad, it may have taken some time for the players to get to know each other, but Easton insisted that putting points on the board was now a priority: “I don’t want to make excuses about gelling; we’ve had three months together now, so its consistency. Are we good enough? I look around and we have the players, and the gaffer thinks that as well. I hope Granty [Anthony Grant] stays with us, and big Bilel at the back. If we can add one or two, and I’d love to see Josh Simpson stay, we’ve got as good a squad as anyone in this League. I’d take our squad over any other in our League.”

“5,500 haven’t seen us at our best; those that have been to Chesterfield and Bradford have seen a different team. Anyone that has consistency will get promoted; I’d love to have a magic wand, but we’ll keep working hard. You might get a few more Torquay United’s and then the standards slip, but we’ll keep on working on consistency.”

One man that Easton knows very well is former loanee Michael Timlin and he was pleased with his temporary addition: “When I got injured, the gaffer said he was bringing Michael in and I knew that he would do a good job. I’ve played with him at Swindon, and I’ve spoken to him and he didn’t want to go back; he was enjoying his time here. There is a difference between the two changing rooms.”

In addition to the well-documented success over Torquay, Blues put in excellent pre-season displays against higher-division opposition in Derby County and West Ham United at Roots Hall, and Easton, who opened his goalscoring account for the club in another impressive performance at Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Carling Cup, believes that Southend are capable of more in front of their own supporters.

“League Two is like that, maybe we need to pass the ball a bit more. The Derby and West Ham games were very different to League Two games, and any time we have done well it’s been against the better teams. We have the battlers for those other games,” he proclaimed.

“We’ve played our best football away. Statistics show that a lot of teams’ away form is better than their home. You are more focussed to do a job when you go away, and at home you probably try a few things. You go away, you’re tighter, at home there’s expectation, and when you go away it’s the same for them. I was talking to Terry Butcher the other day, and Inverness are unbeaten since last November away. Dundee United are the only team in the top half of the SPL, including Rangers and Celtic, whose home form is better than their away.”

“To get a goal at the moment, we seem to have to get a decent one. Sometimes you have to get scrappy ones. I was speaking to the gaffer about it the other day, and we will be working on it. I normally just play in midfield, but we’ve got players like Granty and I think Josh Simpson will get some. Everyone needs to chip in, not just the strikers. I hope we can keep a hold on Granty.”

“Anyone that scores goals moves on as they are a sought-after commodity. At Swindon, Billy Paynter did well and moved on to a Championship side. It’s hard to get them, but I think there are goals in Barry and Blair. Blair has had a few assists.”

“We’ve been working on getting into the box. We know that bodies in the box are what we need; Blair’s not going to score goals when he’s out on the wing. Tommy put a crossing and finishing session on the other day and it was a great session. We do work on it all the time. We’ve got to get in front of the goalkeeper - we do it in training and when it happens it’s great. On DVDs we can look at things like that, and these coaching points are brought up. Players do get told if they get it wrong, whether that’s being offside from short corners or foul throws.”

As the evening drew to a close, Easton ended on a light-hearted note by disclosing that the squad had been keeping an eye on ITV2’s The Only Way In Essex as he spoke about his return to the county: “I’ve been here before, in Buckhurst Hill, for a couple of years. We’ve been watching that programme; Peter Gilbert comes into training every day and tells us what’s going on! I’ve settled in well, I’m living in Leigh-on-Sea and my wife likes it.”
The Shrimpers Trust would like to thank Craig for his time and his willingness to answer all questions put to him, as well as Paul Sturrock and Southend United FC for allowing him to participate. Thanks also to everyone who attended the recent AGM.
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