SOUTHEND United’s head of youth Ricky Duncan has declared himself happy with another season of progress for the Shrimpers’ young guns.

Blues’ under 18 side ended the season in fifth, their highest ever finish in the top Merit League division, while several other stars have emerged in the club’s academy.

And Duncan has been encouraged by the improvements made during the past 10 months.

“I’ve been really pleased with the season,” said Duncan.

“We did well in the Merit League and we’ve been very good this year in the academy and in the youth team in terms of pushing players up.

“We’ve given them chances to play in older age groups and I’m delighted with it all.

“Of course, the main thing is always going to be getting a player in the first team.

“That’s the pinnacle of what we’re doing but below that you want lads to push on and we’ve had that.

“We’ve had a 14-year-old playing in the 18s and we have players deep in the academy who can come through now and that’s a success.

“We’ve had players like Finley Burns leave to join Manchester City as well and, although we always want players to stay, that can also be seen as a major success because of the revenue we got so I think we can be happy with what we’ve achieved.”

However, Duncan has already switched his sights to next season and securing even more success.

With that in mind, the long serving Shrimpers coach has handed scholarships to 11 of the current under 16 squad.

And he has already been impressed by the standard of the new look group.

“We’ve taken on 11 new scholars,” confirmed Duncan.

“A few of them have been playing regularly for the 18s and six of them played on Saturday.

“I was really impressed with the game and it showed we have some strong individuals coming through.

“Matt Rush, who I’ve always admired as a forward, is one of them and we have a wide player in Terrell Egbri who is very quick.

“O’Shane Stewart, in the middle of the park, has shown he has something and we have the England under 16 goalkeeper in Harry Seaden so we have lots of quality coming through so I’m really excited about the next 18 months.”

Duncan has also opted to keep hold of six of the current second year scholars as well as already handing first year scholars Nathan Bishop and Dru Yearwood the third year of their contract.

However, Duncan remains fully focused on developing players for the first team.

“We want to get a few more pushing on and get players in front of Phil Brown who are going to be good enough,” said Duncan.

“We have to make sure they’re ready and I want him to look at the player and think yeah he’s in.

“That’s always our main aim.”