CRAIG Fagan faces a ‘massive’ start to his spell in charge of Southend United’s under-23 side this afternoon.

The young Shrimpers face Scunthorpe United in the second qualifying round of the Premier League Cup at Roots Hall today.

And, with the winners going on to face Hull City, West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United in the group stages of the competition, Fagan is eager to get off to a good start.

“It’s a big game because if you qualify we get an extra six games,” said Fagan, who was appointed earlier this month.

“It’s massive really because we would play against Hull City, West Brom and Newcastle United so it’s a great opportunity.

“The carrot is there for them and it’s about going out and performing like they did against Fleetwood in the previous round.”

Fagan left Hull to take up a coaching position with the Shrimpers.

But he already knows a lot about the squad having previously worked within Blues’ youth set-up.

“I enjoyed the first spell I had here working with the under-16s part time,” said Duncan.

“I liked the way Rick (Duncan) and Harty (Ian) are with the lads and how they like them to be coached. They teach them it’s not as easy as it looks and get the standards of the club forward to the young lads as early as possible, which I liked.”

And that meant Fagan was happy to come back to Blues.

“I was at another club in a similar role which I was enjoying but it was a chance to manage the under-23s and be in more of a management role which is something I wanted,” said Fagan.

“I also know a lot of the players already so it’s not like I’m starting fresh which is good.”

Fagan started with the group last week and was also impressed by the group of players, including centre-back Richard Taylor.

“Richard has trained with the first team but he’s been with us for a few sessions and he’s definitely got a chance,” said Fagan.

“He’s hungry and he’s still playing at first team standard when he’s with us which is good.

“They’re competitive in training and that will improve their games which is what we want.”

The youngsters will also want to push on for the first team and follow in the footsteps of Charlie Kelman, who trained regularly with Fagan during the coach’s first spell at the club.

“We used to do Tuesday and Thursday sessions and Charlie was one who always wanted to do extra work,” said Fagan, who made 70 Premier League appearances in his own career.

“When he heard I was coming back he was on my case about doing finishing sessions but it’s good.”

Kelman has now made 15 first team appearances for Blues and caught the eye when scoring from inside his own half against Plymouth Argyle back in January, something he had previously predicted to Fagan.

“When he was in the under-16s he told me he would get in the first team and score from the halfway line,” said Fagan.

“I kind of laughed to start with but lo and behold he went and did it. That’s the confidence of the boy.

“He’s hungry and wants to learn but so are the others I’ve seen this week so I’ve been pleasantly surprised.”

Fagan, 36, lined up for a number of clubs during his playing career, including Colchester United, Hull City, Derby County and Bradford City.

And Blues’ academy manager Ricky Duncan is delighted to have Fagan on board.

“I’m really pleased,” said Duncan.

“Dave (Huzzey) was a big loss for us but we went through an interview process and Craig came out on top.

“We already knew him from his time here before and we had seen how he had progressed with Hull.

“We could see he was the best candidate and he has real professionalism.

“He sets high standards and some of the players will already know him.”

Today’s match kicks off at 4pm.