MARK Bentley believes Southend United are wise to be looking for hidden gems in non-league football.

Brandon Goodship became the Shrimpers’ first signing of the summer after completing his move from Weymouth earlier this week.

And Bentley, who left non-league Dagenham & Redbridge for a two-year spell with Blues during his playing career, is pleased to see the club continuing to give those outside of the Football League a chance to make the step up.

Bentley, who is now in charge of Isthmian North side Canvey Island, said: “There are some fantastic players at all levels of non-league football and it’s all about someone giving them a chance.

“I was hungry and, thankfully, Southend gave me my opportunity and I took it.

“I started at Aveley and gradually made my way up.

“It’s really good to see a club like Southend looking at non-league players and bringing them in.

“Hopefully Southend can build a good squad and compete in League One this season.

“I love the club to pieces because they gave me my chance in the Football League.”

During his time with the Shrimpers, Bentley enjoyed two consecutive promotions.

But Blues endured a frustrating campaign last term and only staved off relegation from League One thanks to a final day win over Sunderland.

And Bentley insists Blues must improve in Kevin Bond’s first full season in charge at Roots Hall.

The 41-year-old added: “Southend really underachieved last season.

“It was a big failure considering the budget they reportedly had at their disposal.

“But Kevin Bond is hugely experienced in the game and has a good team around him.

“There is no doubting that big improvements need to be made in the upcoming season.”