SOUTHEND United’s new look youth team will be driving themselves forward when the new season starts tomorrow, according to Shrimpers coach Danny Heath.

Blues have eight new first year scholars in their under 18 side this term.

And Heath believes the group will be determined to impress.

“They’re very self driven and they are always looking to drive each other on which I like,” said Heath.

“They’re also a group that want to learn and get better.

“They’ve set targets for the season too which is important both in the league and the cups plus their own individual short term, medium term and long term goals for the season.”


Training hard - Southend United's youth team

The Shrimpers visit Leyton Orient for their first league fixture tomorrow.

And it has been a long time coming for Heath’s side.

“We haven’t played since March and I’m looking forward to seeing the boys play football,” said Heath.

“They’ve worked hard throughout pre-season and they’re ready.”

Blues’ youngsters were eased back into training having stayed in regular contact with the club’s academy manager Ricky Duncan throughout lockdown.

“During lockdown there were WhatsApp groups and Ricky had many zoom calls with everyone,” said Heath.

“It wasn’t just about football either it was about their wellbeing so there’s been contact all the way through.


Starting their season - Southend United's youth side visit Leyton Orient tomorrow

“When we came back for pre-season it could only be in groups of five to start with which was something different and it allowed us to work them harder in smaller groups.

“But after that first week it was full contact and it’s been good.”

However, Heath now wants that to be replicated on the pitch.

“Their aims have to be to be consistent in the 18s and to be pushing into the 23s which is the pinnacle of the academy,” said Heath.

“From the 23s they want to try and catch the eye of the manager and try to get an opportunity they can then try and take.”

Blues have welcomed in eight new first year scholars and Heath already knows all about their ability.


Gelling together - Southend United's youngsters

“Some of the first years I’ve worked with since they’ve been in the under nines and 10s,” said Heath.

“They’ve come all the way through and I’m really looking forward to working with them on a day to day basis.

Blues’ youth team will be captained by Jimmy Wallace this season.

And the centre-back is proud to be leading the side into action.

“I can’t wait to get the season started and it’s a pleasure to be named as captain,” said the 17-year-old.

It’s been a long time without playing so it’s a pleasure to be back.

“We had to keep working hard to be ready when we did come back and I did that but I have to keep going on and off the pitch to do well.”

And Wallace feels his team-mates were also working hard during pre-season.

“We’ve trained hard,” said Wallace.

“We went to Five Lakes and started training at 5.30am some days.

“But it was good all being together and it made us stronger as a team.”