SOUTHEND United’s youngsters have been rubbing shoulders with top European teams on tour.

Blues have been battling against the likes of Juventus, Marseille, PSV Eindhoven, Brondy and Atletico Madrid in their end of season trips.

And Shrimpers’ youth coach Danny Heath believes the trips have been hugely beneficial for the club’s promising players.

“Throughout the season we try to get all of the age groups on at least one tour and we’ve just had some really good ones,” said Heath.

“The under 15s went to Austria for a really big tournament.

“It’s one of the most prestigious events for academy sides in Europe.

“You have to qualify to take place but we got our place through Josh Bexon and Dan Walker going on loan to FC Kitzbuhel last season.

“Other clubs had to qualify and there were teams from the USA, Austria, Germany, Spain, Italy and Switzerland so it was a really big tournament.

“There were 4,500 watching the finals on the Sunday evening and it was a really good experience.”

The Shrimpers rubbed shoulders with several top sides and did not look out of place on the pitch.

“We came third in our group behind Stuttgart and Austria Vienna and we missed out on qualifying for the Gold Cup by just one point,” said Heath.

“The boys did really well and we ended up as the best third placed team which meant we finished 17th out of 48.”

And Blues’ younger age-groups have also been on their travels.

“The under 11, 12 and 13s went to Germany and they played the likes of Juventus, Lazio, Manchester City, Sheffield United and Cardiff,” said Heath.

“This season we’ve also been to France and Germany and there has been a combination of indoor and outdoor tournaments.”

The tournaments see a number of matches played in short succession.

And Heath believes they play a big part in improving the Shrimpers’ up and coming talents.

“It helps them both on and off the pitch,” said Heath.

“On the pitch you’re playing against different types of opposition and dealing with different types of referees.

“Off the pitch, it’s about life skills.

“Being away form their families they have to think on their own two feet and be organised.

“It makes them grow up and it’s massive for their development.

“We also find out a lot about them on and off the pitch and hope to do more tours next year.”