RONNIE Pountney has heaped praise on Southend United midfielder Ryan Leonard after the current Shrimpers midfielder joined him in the club’s record books.

Leonard was voted Blues’ player of the year for a third time on Sunday.

And Pountney - the only other Southend player to have ever won the award on three separate occasions - feels Leonard fully deserves all the accolades coming his way.

“I still watch Southend at every possible opportunity and every time I have done in the past few years I think Ryan Leonard has been the best player,” said Pountney.

“He just has so much energy, he’s a real box to box midfielder and he’s capable of scoring some really good goals as well.

“I would like to congratulate him on winning the award for the third time and I think it’s fully deserved.

“I think Southend are lucky to have someone like him in their team.”

Pountney - who made 403 appearances for Blues - was voted Blues’ player of the year in 1979, 1980 and 1983.

But the 62-year-old was frustrated to see Phil Brown’s side miss out on the play-offs on the final day of the season.

“I met up with (former team-mates) Derek Spence and Keith Mercer at the game and there was a lot of toing and froing going on with our game and the one at Bristol Rovers,” said Pountney,.

“At one point it seemed to be going Southend’s way but ultimately it was a frustrating day and I think most fans would find it hard not to be disappointed at the moment.

“The team did well to get themselves into a really good position but I think it should’ve been wrapped up before the final game of the season if I’m honest.”

Blues saw off Bury 1-0 in their final fixture on Sunday but finished just one point and one place below the play-offs after Millwall triumphed 4-3 at Bristol Rovers.

A run of four defeats in five games hit Southend hard before they returned to winning ways against the Shakers.

But the Shrimpers will now need to regroup before starting again next season, which Pountney hopes will be successful.

“The team will go again now and hopefully next year they won’t be missing out,” said Pountney, who still lives locally in Eastwood.

“There are some good players at the club at the moment with Ryan Leonard obviously the pick of the bunch and I wish them all the very best.”