Trio earn Southend deals

Southend have announced that three youngsters that came through the academy have signed their first professional contracts.

Josh Banton, Jack Bridge and Jason Williams have all agreed to one-year deals with the club, with the option of a further 12 months.

Banton, a centre-back, midfielder Bridge and striker Williams will all begin their first pre-season with the first team after graduating from the youth academy.

Boss Phil Brown told the club's official website: "It's great news that Josh, Jack and Jason have signed their deals and will have the opportunity to impress us this season.

"I was pleased with their progression under Ricky for the youth team last season, and they all thoroughly deserved their first professional deals.

"They've worked hard to get to this position, but now it's very important they kick on and work hard throughout pre-season.

"Jack Payne, this time last year, was in their position and he made a big impression. All three of them can look at that and target the same for themselves this time around."

The trio join Ted Smith and Ellis Brown in signing their first pro deals with Southend.