John Main took over as chairman following Vic Jobson's resignation on 21st November 1998. This finally brought to a close (well, I hope so) a period of uncertainty when it appeared that Vic, who practically rebuilt the club after a disastrous time under the ownership of Anton Johnson, was unlikely to go without a substantial amount of money heading his way.
John Main grew up in the East End of London and is a West Ham supporter.
He says he is a
Mr. Main says that the club will not move from Roots Hall until a new stadium is completed. No new planning application has been filed but the site at Boots & Laces is big enough for a new stadium which could be expanded to 25 thousand seats from an initial 12 to 15 thousand. He recognises that the team must do well for them to get into a profitable situation.
John Main has said that he is aware of a certain amount of friction between SUFC and the fans, SUFC and the council, SUFC and everyone really... Mr. Main intends to do something about this.
Mr. Main has said that anyone can ring him at the club and he will get back to them. This sounds very positive but obviously shouldn't be seen as an opportunity to let off steam every time we lose.
In an interview with Tom King (from This is Essex), John Main insisted that
I'm a lucky man. This is the only job in the world I want.
John found his way in to the Southend chair more by accident than by design, having been a member of the London Stock Exchange and a specialist in property company reversals.
After his first wife, Vanessa, died from cancer, John threw himself into his involvement with Martin Dawn. Then Martin Dawn was approached with what looked like a sound enough commercial proposition— to buy up the Southend training ground, then lease it back to the club for £72 000 a year.
When the company started to look at the facts and figures they found the situation terrifying. They came to a conclusion that was hardly hot news to several thousand people in Southend:
In our opinion, the football club was bust.
Martin Dawn could have walked away at this stage. Instead they went in. John disregarded his own advice, that local property groups should not become involved with football clubs.
It's hard not to believe that the chance of sitting in that hotseat had something to do with it.
You're 55, you think things are fairly mapped out, and then something like this comes along,he says, with wonder.
A further source of happiness is his second wife, Lorraine, whom he courted on long car journeys, returning from Blues' away matches.
There are those, inevitably, who have their suspicions about the rôle of a property company in the Blues scheme of things. John is at pains to reassure them.
I'm in here for the long term. I ask people to trust me. We're not pulling the plug on the football club or treating this merely as a property play. What we're trying to do is secure the future of this club.
He has already put his money where his mouth is, bringing in the illustrious West Ham boss Peter Storrie as chief executive.
The sense of commitment is enhanced by John's own transformation from property to football.
I'm not directly involved in the activities of the property company now. I'm parked in Southend for the next five to ten years and my job is genuinely to rebuild the football club.
When he was younger and lived in Forest Gate, he played for West Ham Colts and Leyton Orient.
I was alright, and I did have some ideas of being professional... [but] the year that I joined West Ham, Martin Peters also joined. It stood out right away that he was different. I was in a pot with lots of other kids, Martin was something else.
So John went in for a different game. He joined the Stock Exchange as an office boy, and made his way up in the classic style of an East End kid from poverty row.
My father died when I was young and, while I don't want to labour all the old East End stuff about lack of money and tough times, that was us... Kids from my background, when they see an opportunity, they take it. We listen and we learn.
It was also typical of the East End lad that his greatest ambition, and one that he duly achieved, was to move his old mum out of the East End and into the glades of Epping Forest.
John feels that his talents and skills boil down to one thing— understanding people. That was what mattered in the City, and that is what counts at Southend Football Club.
When people say that I haven't got experience of football management, I just say that I know what people are all about. I know about passion and emotion.
The new style of management is astonishing those more used to elitist
bosses and stuff-you-mate attitudes. The new chairman will swoop onto ticket
queues and give impromptu guided tours of Roots Hall to fans standing there.
Fans are invited for drinks in the office and told,
True to the principles of the old City where
What I say, I mean... I know that once the trust factor goes, you might as well pack up and go home.
Worldly experience and years of blues at the Blues counsels caution and wariness. Yet a deeper instinct tells you indeed to trust John Main. This, after all, is a man who right at the start of his career as a football executive has pronounced his own epitaph.
This is it:
If I wake up at three in the morning— which I'm doing quite a lot at the moment— I know at least that nobody can accuse me of not doing my best, of not throwing myself heart and soul, into this football club.
© Luke Bosman Monday, 23 April 2007 at 21:07:10
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Contributions and updates to the site are always welcome.
with thanks to Tom King, August 1999