SOUTHEND United manager Phil Brown has revealed that not offering Freddy Eastwood a new contract at the club was one of the hardest decisions he has ever had to make.

Brown opted not to hand the 30-year-old striker a deal to remain at Roots Hall.

But it was not a decision he took lightly.

“I’ve had to make some hard choices as a manager but this was one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make due to Freddy’s stature at this football club,” said Brown.

“He’s been superb on and off the pitch and he’s been first class with me.

“But with Barry Corr and Lee Barnard here already we have plenty of experience and I just felt as though we needed some youthful exuberance and pace up top, just like we did for a little while when Jamar Laza was here.”

Brown has also decided to release defender Mark Phillips and midfielders Marc Laird and Bedsente Gomis.

And he was keen to thank all three players for their efforts while with the Shrimpers.

“Mark Phillips’ experience helped the younger players while he was here but I think it’s got to the stage where we want to go with youth,” said Brown.

“I think Marc was unfortunate to pick up the hamstring injury at the start of the season because he never really seemed to get back from that.

“Bedsente didn’t play as much as them and only had a couple of substitute appearances.

“Right now I think we need players we could play 46 games in their position and Bedsente probably can’t do that just yet.

“However, I wish him and all the other lads the very best for the future and I would really like to thank them for their efforts while they were here.”