HIGHLY RATED goalkeeper Ted Smith believes the hard work is about to start for him at Southend United.

Smith has signed a year and a half long professional deal to stay with the Shrimpers.

But the Benfleet based 18-year-old will not be resting on his laurels at Roots Hall.

“I’m delighted to be signing a pro deal, it is what you work so hard for and want to earn but the hard work starts now really,” said the former King John School pupil.

“You can’t just stop because you’ve signed a contract, you have to get better, show the first team manager what you can do and make an impression.

“That’s what I will be aiming to do and I will continue to work hard with the youth team until the end of the season and then during the summer I’ll do as much work as I can to make sure I come back for the new season in the best shape possible.”

Smith signed his professional contract on the pitch ahead of Blues’ 2-1 triumph against Portsmouth on Wednesday.

And that completed a memorable few months for the shot-stopper who has also represented England at under 18 level this season.

“It has been an amazing few months for me,” said Smith.

“Getting the youth team captaincy gave me a huge confidence boost, playing a few first team games in pre season was also really good and of course playing for England’s under 18 side.

“But in all honesty I see the England call ups as a bonus.

“The hard work has to be done here at the club in training and in games.”

As a result, Smith will continue to work tirelessly with the club’s group of goalkeepers which includes Blues’ current first choice between the sticks, Daniel Bentley.

The Wickford based youngster also came through the youth ranks at Roots Hall and Smith is keen to follow in his foot-steps.

“I get on really well with Dan, we’ve both been at the club for a while and he’s certainly someone I look up to in terms of what I hope to do now I’ve earned a professional contract with the club,” said Smith.

“Working with him every day in training is great and he’s also really good to get advice and help from."