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JACK Bridge has labelled signing a professional contract at Southend United as a dream come true.

The 18-year-old midfielder was born just round the corner from Roots Hall and supported the Shrimpers as a youngster.

He has also been with the club since the age of nine and is now delighted to be part of Phil Brown’s squad.

“I remember coming to watch my first game of football when I was a kid here at Roots Hall, so it’s incredible to now be part of the first-team,” said Bridge.

“It’s a dream come true to be honest and I just want to make the most of the opportunity I’ve been given, firstly by Ricky Duncan, and now by the manager.

Bridge is keen to make a good impression during pre-season training, which started on Tuesday.

And he is looking forward to making the step up from youth team football.

“I’ve been here for a long time now, but this season will be very different,” said Bridge.

“The step up to the first team is always going to be tough but thankfully I got some experience under my belt in and around the group last season.

“That will hopefully stand me in good stead and I’ve tried to do a bit of extra work over the off season as well to prepare me as best as possible for what is to come.”

And Bridge hopes that can also help him work his way in to the first team squad next season and follow in the foot-steps of Jack Payne who impressed for the first team last term after also coming through the youth system at Roots Hall.

“It was great to be involved a few times last season and to have my name read out on the team-sheet was something I won’t forget,” said the teenager.

“Now the aim for me is to get on the bench as much as possible and into the first-team if I can just like Jack has done.

“He had a great year last season and all the other youngsters can look at how well he did for our own motivation. I’d like to think I can do just as well this season, but I know I’ve got to work extremely hard.”