SOUTHEND United’s academy manager Ricky Duncan believes goalkeeper Nathan Bishop is reaping the rewards of his hard work with the Shrimpers.

The 19-year-old shot-stopper has started the last four games for Blues and produced a stunning man of the performance against Gillingham on New Year’s Day.

But Duncan believes none of that would have been possible without Bishop’s incredible approach to the game.

“Nathan’s appetite for football and his focus on it is just unreal,” said Duncan.

“There were times when I would actually have to tell him to stop training and to take a breather.

“I would go into the gym, it would be about 7pm and he would still be in there.

“I would have to tell him to go home and I’ve never had to do that with any other player.

“And I’ll be entirely honest, it was his commitment and his attitude which made us sign him.

“I remember he came in on trial when he must have been 16 and a few of us weren’t sure.

“But we got to know him and I’ve never seen anyone have a work ethic like his.

“He’s getting the rewards for that now and will want to keep that going.”

Bishop is the latest Blues goalkeeper to have risen through the youth ranks at Roots Hall, following in the foot-steps of Daniel Bentley who now plays for Brentford in the Championship.

The fit-again Ted Smith, who played for England in his youth, is also pushing for selection, and Duncan is confident there are more top keepers to come.

“We have Nathan and Ted but there are other keepers pushing through too,” said Duncan.

“We have George Murray-Jones who has got England call ups and he’s already training with the under 23s even though he’s 14.

“Josh Bexon is doing well at Harlow, we have Harry Seaden in the youth team who has played for England and Callum Taylor who is a Northern Ireland international.”

And Duncan believes that is down to the coaching system in place.

“We have Terry Mason, Reece Ottley and Jack Harrington who all do a great job,” said Duncan.

“That’s why so many keepers are coming through and it’s great.”