The reserves had previously played in the South Eastern League and the Southern League, the purpose in those days was as now to view possible first team candidates, give youngster a trial, ease players back from injury but also as a source of income.
The main aim was to have a game at home every Saturday, first team or reserves and for attractive opposition they could expect gates of 5,000. The problem was that in the Southern League, sides such as Bristol City Reserves, Plymouth Reserves while attractive were expensive in travelling expenses, while non league opposition like Bath, Guidford, Yeovil or Torquay were hardly going to pull the crowds in.
A massive breakthrough happened in 1923 when Southend became the only non London side to join the London Combination, we became the 12th member of the league along with First Division Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham and seven other London second or third Division teams. Each team was played twice at home and twice away, nominal travelling expenses and Eight home games against the big four, with virtually guaranteed 5,000 attendance for each of those games.
The first year we finished a creditable fourth, the second a disappointing bottom, and the only side we hadn't beaten was Chelsea. 1925-26 was another good season and we played at 100,000 capacity Stamford Bridge on New Years Eve.
CHELSEA 1-5 SOUTHEND UNITED
Thursday 31st December 1925
For the first time the Junior Blues recorded their first victory at Stamford Bridge by the magnificent score of 5-1, and thoroughly deserved it Ernie Watkins scoring four of them. However Watkins and another player were suspended by the club for two week for a breach of club rules on New Years Eve.
Ernie Watkins had a good scoring record for the first team but was unhappy at being dropped and shortly before this time he was placed on the transfer list, presumably he went out celebrating when he shouldn't have. Two days later the reserves played Arsenal, who they had already beaten 7-1, but this game went badly.
ARSENAL 4-0 SOUTHEND UNITED
Saturday 2nd January 1926
After such a great performance against Chelsea, the result against Arsenal was most disappointing. Quite how much influence the disciplinary actions affected the play can't be known, but the Junior Blues lost by four goals to nil. Two quick goals in succession killed the game in the first half, and although the Blues did have a good spell in the second it was a disappointing result that kept them in third place in the League
Southend finished the season in 3rd place in the London Combination behind Spurs and West Ham.
The moral of this is that we have beaten Chelsea Reserves 5-1 at Stamford Bridge, this Saturday we are playing Chelsea first team not reserves OR ARE WE?
(It does look as if we are now as they have a few injuries and suspensions as well as just resting players. Read the updated preview here: www.thelittlegazette.com/news/loadnews.asp?cid=TMNW&id=424995)