GLENN Pennyfather has heaped praise on Southend United’s Ryan Leonard on the eve of the midfielder’s 250th game for the club.

Leonard will become the youngest Shrimpers player to reach the landmark since Pennyfather, in 1987, when he takes to the field at Doncaster Rovers tomorrow.

And Pennyfather - who now works as a summariser for BBC Essex - is a big fan of the 25-year-old.

“Ryan is a vital cog for Southend and I think he’s a fantastic player,” said Pennyfather, who played 273 games for Blues.

“He gets through an incredible amount of work and has a great ability to be able to spot danger.

“He does a lot of work people may not notice but he has a bit of everything.

“He’s a very strong runner, he has great athleticism, he’s strong, good in the air and can pass.

“He gets the odd goal, although I’m sure he would want more and I definitely think he could play higher.”

Leonard was wanted by Championship duo Millwall and Sheffield United in the summer and both clubs had offers of £500,000 rejected by Blues chairman Ron Martin.

And Pennyfather feels Leonard’s early season form may have been affected by the speculation surrounding his future.

“I remember when there was speculation about me when I was at Southend and it does play on your mind,” said Pennyfather, who went on to play for Crystal Palace and Ipswich Town.

“I think it probably affected Ryan too because the last thing you want to do is get injured when you’re rumoured to have opportunities like that.

“But once the transfer window shut he’s been brilliant and has played a key part for Blues.”

Leonard - who joined the Shrimpers in 2011 - will also make his 200th League start for Southend this weekend.