ROB Howard has signed his first professional contract at Southend United.

Howard was on trial with the Shrimpers towards the end of last season following his departure from Colchester United.

And Blues’ academy manager Ricky Duncan is delighted to have him back at the club.

“We had Rob here as a youngster and Arsenal signed him when he was 14 but it’s great to have him here again,” said Duncan.

“He’s someone I’ve seen at games over the years and often spoken to and after he went to Colchester I told him to give me a call if things didn’t work out, which is what he did during last season.”

And that ultimately led to Howard signing a one-year deal, having impressed in a new role.

“We’ve been playing him at right-back and that’s what I see him as now,” said Duncan.

“Before that he had been a midfielder but he can still play there.

“He’s an accomplished footballer, a good athlete and a great kid who conducts himself professionally so he’s a good signing.

“We now want him to push Elvis (Bwomono) and to try and make the first team himself too.”