SOUTHEND United manager Phil Brown does not expect John Egan to remain with the Shrimpers next season.
The centre-back impressed while on loan with Blues from Sunderland towards the end of the previous campaign.
But Brown now feels the Irishman will not be returning to Roots Hall.
“We think John will be signing for a club in a higher division to be honest,” said the Shrimpers boss.
“That’s always the risk when you have a player in on loan and he does well.
“We’ve done all we can to try to keep him and sign him on a permanent basis, but he has interest from clubs in higher leagues than us and we don’t expect him to be with us next season.”
Egan, inset, made 15 appearances while with Southend and also won the club’s goal of the season award for his stunning strike away at Scunthorpe United.
Echosport understands that the 21-year-old Irishman is wanted by clubs in both the Championship and in League One.
But his fellow loanee – Jakub Sokolik – who came in from Liverpool – remains in talks with the Shrimpers about a permanent move.
Blues also have other options in defence with Luke Prosser eager to impress after injury wrecked the second half of what had been an excellent season for him.
And Adam Thompson, who signed from Watford last season, will also be pushing for a place in the team as the Shrimpers again look to impress at the back.
Southend boasted the best defensive record in League Two last season, conceding 39 goals in 46 games and kept 20 clean sheets in all competitions.