SOUTHEND United manager Phil Brown has revealed talks with a trio of his transfer targets continue to progress.

The Blues boss is keen to bring defender Julian Bennett, midfielder Conor Clifford and striker Jonathan Forte to the club.

And he hopes all three deals can be completed before the Shrimpers start their League Two season against Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.

“We’re in talks with Julian, Conor and Jonathan and they’ve certainly progressed,” said Brown.

“There’s still a little way to go but they’re players I want to bring in to the football club and it would be great if everything could be sorted before the weekend.

“Julian and Conor have both been with us for a little while so they’re already settled in and I think all three would be good signings.”

Clifford, who came through the youth ranks at Chelsea, first appeared  for  Blues  in  a  behind   closed doors friendly against Leyton Orient.

He travelled with the squad to Madrid before impressing against both Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United at Roots Hall.

Former Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest defender Bennett played 90 minutes against West Ham at left-back having previously played in the middle of the defence after coming off the bench in games with Real Madrid C and QPR.

Forte is currently with Southampton and Brown confirmed Blues’ squad size would rise to 19 registered players.

That would leave them with just one more allocated space due to the transfer embargo the club remain under due to outstanding debts.

And Brown is debating how best to fill the remaining spot in his squad.

“I might decide to keep it open in case of an emergency or bring someone else in,” said Brown.

“We’re can only have 20 players because of the embargo so we have to think about how best to balance things.”

Don Cowan, who can play either up front or on the wing, is still training with Blues after making three appearances during pre-season.

And the Echo understands that the former Dundee forward is still on the radar of boss Brown.