SOUTHEND United’s academy manager Ricky Duncan has found new ways to test his young players during the coronavirus pandemic.

Duncan has held regular Zoom meetings with the Shrimpers sides who are still unable to train together.

And he continues to set tasks for all of the teams.

“Across the academy we’ve set them challenges,” said Duncan.

“The last one was for them to cook something for their parents.

“We had Isaac Hayden talking to the boys and he said about having to learn to cook while out on loan so that’s what led to us asking all the boys from the under nines to the under 23s to go and cook something.

“We have WhatsApp groups and they had to post what they had made on there.

“But we’re also talking to them on Zoom in groups of four or five all the time as well.”

Blues’ youngsters have also been learning new languages as well have having more physical activities.

“We have a thing called the seven s’s at the academies to do with space and standards, things like that, but we asked them to go and write them in different languages,” said Duncan.

“So we had Chinese, Russian and Lithuanian but we’ve given them challenges like the Neymar one and also some work to do on their physical development which was set by the strength and conditioning team.

“They’ve had to do 5k runs or a bike ride and some have bought paddle boards to help with their core.

“We also got them to write where they would be in 10 years and it was very interesting.

“We’ve been doing all of this for nine weeks now and the feedback from the parents has been great.”

And the Shrimpers youngsters have also been spoken to by a number of former players.

“We had Nathan Bishop, Isaac Hayden and now Marlon Harewood as well,” said Duncan.

“He was fantastic and spoke about his ups and downs. All the boys asked him questions and it was great.

“Daniel Bentley spoke to Terry Mason which was great and the boys listened to that while Alex Woodyard has offered to talk to them as well now.”