SOUTHEND United are in advanced contract talks with Anthony Straker and Jack Payne.

The duo’s current deals expire at the end of the season.

But Shrimpers boss Phil Brown is keen to keep them both at the club.

“We are at an advanced stage in our contract talks with Anthony and Jack at the moment,” said Brown.

“It’s been hard for Anthony in the last few weeks because he hasn’t been as involved as he would’ve liked but he’s shown a fantastic attitude.

“He’s kept himself in good shape and did very well indeed when he came on at Fleetwood last weekend.

“He was excellent in that half an hour he had and he’s certainly in my thinking for a place in the starting line-up now for Saturday’s game against Burton.”

Starker, who signed from Aldershot Town in the summer of 2012, struggled during his first season with the Shrimpers and was often well below his best.

But this term he has pushed push forward from left back to feature on the wing and has produced performances of a far higher standard.

Straker has now appeared 79 times for Blues while 19-year-old Payne has played 14 times this term.

The youngster came through the youth ranks at Roots Hall and has also impressed Brown with some eye catching displays for the club’s development team this term.

“This has been Jack’s breakthrough season for the first team and he has bundles of talent and enthusiasm,” said Brown.

“We’ve been pleased by the progress he’s made and we want him to continue that with us.”

Goalkeeper Paul Smith, defenders Mark Phillips and Julian Bennett plus midfielder Marc Laird and striker Freddy Eastwood are also out of contract at the end of the season.

However, Phillips looks likely to depart after not returning to the Shrimpers after his loan spell with Aldershot Town came to an end.