STEVE Tilson is backing Lee Barnard to rediscover his best form for Southend United next season.

Last week, Echosport revealed how the striker had another year remaining at Roots Hall, despite scoring just once in 14 games while on at the end of last season.

But Tilson, who was in charge of Barnard during his first spell with the Shrimpers, believes the 29-year-old will start to score more regularly once he is back to full fitness.

“I’m sure Barney will score goals in League Two next season if he can have a good pre-season and get himself fit,” said Tilson.

“When he came to Southend in January he had been out for quite some time and he had only been back training a week so it was a quite a gamble from the club to bring him in to be honest.

“It was always going to be tough for Barney to hit the ground running, especially as he was coming in to a brand new team with players he hadn’t played with before.

“But we all know the qualities he has and pre-season will be absolutely huge for him.

“If he can get through that without getting injured then I’m sure he will start to score more regularly and I really hope he does because he’s a great lad.”

Barnard scored 37 goals in 85 games during his first stint with the Shrimpers before joining Southampton for £175,000 in January 2010.

The former Mayflower School pupil impressed with the Saints before getting injured.

And Tilson feels keeping Barnard fit will be the key to how successful he will be next season.

“It’s always been with the same with Barney but if he’s fit he will score goals and probably lots of them too,” said the former Shrimpers boss.

“He did it before when we were in League One and I was absolutely gutted when he left because I knew how important he was to us.

“We ended up going down once he went but hopefully he can help Southend get back out of League Two now next season.”