SOUTHEND United manager Kevin Bond is readying himself for an ‘interesting’ battle for Blues’ goalkeeping position next season.

Mark Oxley and Nathan Bishop will both be vying for a starting slot between the sticks.

But Bond is pleased to have competition for the number one position.

“It’s interesting but it’s what we want,” said Bond.

“We can’t have anyone thinking that their place is secure.

“You need competition and people need to be at their best to play, which is what we have with the goalkeepers.

“Although they’re in competition, in the same breath they can be very close.

“They completely understand the situation in most cases.”

Oxley enjoyed an impressive 2017/18 season with the Shrimpers and was deservedly named the club’s player of the year.

After signing a new deal, amid interest from Championship club Millwall, the 28-year-old was named as Blues’ captain by then manager Chris Powell.

However, the shot-stopper was sent off for violent conduct in the seventh game of the season against Charlton Athletic and was stripped of the captaincy by Powell.

Oxley reclaimed his place in the side after the resulting suspension but suffered a back injury in December which saw Nathan Bishop given a chance.

The teenager ended up making 21 appearances in goal but the more experienced Oxley was preferred for the final four games of the season as Blues successfully stayed up by beating Sunderland on the final day.

However, the battle for the starting slot will continue next season and Bond knows it can be tough for goalkeepers.

“It’s difficult for goalkeepers because as an outfield player you normally have at least a couple of chances of getting back in the team but it’s different with keepers because you’re waiting on just one person to get injured or lose a bit of form,” said Bond, who took charge of the Shrimpers in April.

“It can be hard dealing with that mentally and that’s where Lee Harrison plays an important part with the one who isn’t playing.

“But I am glad we have the competition for that place.”

However, the duo will not be facing further competition from Ted Smith next season after the former England youth international was not offered a new contract by Bond to remain at Roots Hall.