MARK Bentley jumped at the chance to return to Southend United, despite the size of the task he is now facing.

Bentley, who made 107 appearances for the Shrimpers as a player, is now back at the club as first team coach.

And the 43-year-old is eager to get Blues back on track.

“This is the club that gave me my first professional deal and I’m delighted to be back,” said Bentley.

“We know we’ve got a big project but with the support we will give to Kev (Maher) we want to turn this club around and bring back some glory days.

“It’s going to take a hell of a lot of work but we’re ready to go.

“Looking in at the last few years it has been sad to see.

“I always thought, in the back of my mind, if there was ever any chance of going back and trying to help out, I’d love to do so.

“The opportunity has come up and I’m raring to go now.”

Bentley won back to back promotions while with Blues between 2004 and 2006 but has missed being involved in full-time football since retiring.

Bentley combined managing Canvey Island, who currently top the Isthmian North table, with a role in Stevenage’s education development programme.

But he had always been keen for a more regular role.

“My passion is full-time football and that’s what I worked hard for as a player,” said Bentley.

“Since coming out of it it’s been tough to be honest with you.

“The direction you go in is not always the way you want to go.

“You fall into other positions but my life has gone full circle now really.

“I worked my way up as a player and now it’s gone that way again with coaching.

“I dropped down to Canvey and it was a great learning curve for me as a manager.

“But now I’ve got the opportunity to step up again into the National League with Southend and I’m really happy to be here.”

However, it is a far from straight forward task for Bentley who will work closely alongside assistant coach Darren Currie and head coach Kevin Maher,who he played alongside while with Blues.

The Shrimpers have suffered back to back relegations and currently sit in the National League drop zone after another poor start to the season.

But Bentley has been buoyed by the reaction of Southend’s squad.

“We’ve been in a few days now and it’s been positive,” said Bentley.

“It’s a good group of boys but they’re fragile at the moment and you can sense what’s been happening.

“We want to go in with fresh minds and there will be opportunities for lads who might not have been in the squad.

“But the boys have responded well.”

Despite that, the Shrimpers suffered a 3-0 defeat at fifth-placed Dagenham.

But Bentley knows it will take time for Blues to get things right.

“It was always going to be difficult at Dagenham and it’s not going to happen overnight,” said Bentley.

“It’s a project and people need to be patient.

“Of course we want to win games and we want to win them quickly too but it might take some time.

“Hopefully we get that time and we will need backing from everyone. “The fans turned out in big numbers on Saturday and were excellent. “We need them and they’re the 12th man.

“I know that from the good times we had here but in the bad times we’ve got to be together.”

And Bentley has already experienced how quickly things can change at Roots Hall.

“We were third or fourth from bottom when I joined,” said Bentley.

“I wasn’t why it turned around or anything because I struggled a bit initially.

“But the club wasn’t in a good place and we all turned it round together.

“The club recruited well and kicked on.”

And Bentley still feels time is on Blues’ side this season.

“We have a long way to go this season but we need to identify who we want in terms of the playing squad we’ve got now,” said Bentley.

“They understand that and as a player you aren’t stupid.

“You know when a new management team comes in there might be changes.

“We’re giving them opportunities at the moment to prove their worth and see who is going to come on this journey with us.

“There are three very determined management staff here who want to get this club moving in the right direction again.”