SOUTHEND United’s academy manager Ricky Duncan is thrilled to see the Shrimpers’ youngsters making an impact out on loan.

Blues have opted to send several of their under-23 squad out to non-league clubs on a temporary basis.

And Duncan has been pleased with how the players have been able to deal with the physicality of the matches after plenty of hard work behind the scenes.

“Eighteen months ago we sat down and spoke about the academy, the tactical side and the technical side and decided we needed to make the players more robust,” said Duncan.

“We put more work into the programme with that in mind and they started doing more gym sessions.

“We made sure they all knew what we wanted and this year I felt as though the boys looked as though they could go out and into non-league.

“The boys we let out before I would go and watch but they were just a little bit off of it so that was another reason for the changes.”

Twelve of the Shrimpers’ youngsters have spent time with other clubs already this season.

And Duncan feels that the impact made by the first three to head out led to others being wanted elsewhere.

“We let Terrell (Egbri), Matt (Rush) and Miles (Mitchell-Nelson) go to Harlow first and the feedback we got from them was great,” said Duncan.

“Once people started to see them we got phone calls from elsewhere.

“Bromley wanted Michael Klass and everything steam-rolled from there really so the phone doesn’t stop ringing now.

“Non-league managers are seeing we have players who can go out and hold their own at that level.

“It’s a great learning curve for our lads.

“They get out and meet guys who do an unbelievable jobs in non-league.

“I go and watch a lot of games myself and what they put up with is a thankless task at times.

“It’s nice we can help them but we all benefit from it.”

Blues’ under-23 coach Craig Fagan has also backed the idea and Duncan has noticed a difference in the players when they return.

“Craig thinks it’s great for them to go and get games and the boys come back more mature,” said Duncan.

“They understand what’s needed.

“It’s become a really good part of what we’re doing.

“Hopefully that can continue but we will monitor it because the boys can’t lose sight of the fact they’re here to earn a professional contract and push on with our first team here.”