SOUTHEND United manager Phil Brown has opened contract talks with left-back Ben Coker.

The defender has been one of Blues’ most consistent performers this season.

And Brown is keen to extend Coker’s current contract, which finishes at the end of next season.

“I think it’s important to safeguard the future of the football club by getting Ben tied up to a longer contract,” said the Shrimpers boss.

“He’s surprised me if I’m honest this season because he’s come in having been playing non-league football with Histon and taken to League Two like a duck to water.

“He looks like a proper full-back and he’s a proper footballer too.

“I’ve been delighted with him this season and would love him to sign for another year or two beyond the contract he currently has, that runs out at the end of next year.

“We’re further down the line with him than we are with any other players and it would be great for the football club if he agreed to sign a new deal.”

Brown will also be running the rule over several of his squad players in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Gillingham this afternoon.

The Shrimpers chief has yet to decide on his starting line-up but did hint that striker Barry Corr and winger Jacob Murphy could both be in action as they attempt to work their way into the starting line-up for Friday’s trip to Rochdale.

“We will be using the game to have a look at one or two and we also have some squad players who need a game,” said Brown.

“Later on this month we have two games coming up which I would describe as ‘exit and entrance matches’, as those who will be leaving the club and those who we could look to bring in will be playing in them.

“This is one of the last games we have before then, so it’s an important one for a variety of reasons for those who will be involved.”