NATHAN Ralph is thrilled to be back in Essex after completing a switch to Southend United.

The 26-year-old left-back - who grew up in Ilford - has signed a two year deal with the Shrimpers.

And Ralph is happy to to have been snapped up by the Shrimpers.

"I’m very pleased,” said the defender.

“I’ve not played football close to home ever really.

"I’ve always been quite far away so it feels good, being an Essex boy, to be coming back.

I grew up in Ilford and I’ve always been around Essex really but from 16 I was moving to different clubs because of football so I’ve been all around.

"But it’s refreshing to come back and be a part of football back in Essex."

Ralph came through the youth ranks at Peterborough United but failed to make a first team appearance for Posh before spending three years with Yeovil Town.

The defender also lined up for Aldershot and Woking before spending last season with Dundee where he was voted player of the year.

Ralph's displays were not enough to keep Dundee in the Scottish Premier League but the defender was still able to develop his own game.

“At Dundee it was a difficult year but on a personal level I felt like I had a good season, said Ralph.

“It was a good learning year for me too.

"I learnt a lot and there’s a lot of passion in Scottish football so things like that helped drive me and I played to the best I could."

But Ralph is now looking forward to life in League One.

“League One is a tough and demanding league," said Ralph.

"It will test me and I’m looking forward to it.

“The aim now is to kick on. I’ve had to go into non-league to play games and work my way up so I feel like I can keep going now.”