Welcome to the section of the Shrimpers Trust website dedicated to Southend United’s Youth Department.
Our relationship with the Centre of Excellence was established in 2005, when Ricky Duncan returned to the club from Cambridge United to become Head of Youth. Then Trust Secretary Terry Jeffreys and committee member Robert Craven met Duncan at a pre-season friendly against Bowers & Pitsea, and his infectious enthusiasm immediately struck a chord.
A line of communication was quickly drawn up, and the first investment was made to assist young winger Joel Ledgister in his travelling costs to training at Boots & Laces. This was soon amended so that the Trust paid for the youngster’s lodgings in south-east Essex, and Ledgister became the first ‘Shrimpers Trust Kid’.
He was followed the next season by commanding centre-half Reiss Noel in a similar arrangement, and although the pair both impressed the club’s coaches, they were unable to earn professional contracts at Roots Hall.
Trust money was also being directed by this stage towards the purchase of equipment such as footballs and a Smart board, but it was clear that our help could be better directed by donating money to a more general cause.
In 2007/8, the Shrimpers Trust announced a two-year donation of £10,000 designed to help Southend United’s Centre of Excellence continue running its successful European Tour Programme. Aside from this, Duncan and his coaching team benefited from £4,000 raised through the Quid-a-Goal scheme.
Alongside this investment, the Trust ratcheted up its coverage of the Under-18 team, providing Shrimpers supporters with regular match reports and interviews with the up-and-coming stars of the future. At the suggestion of Duncan, a Player of the Year award was established and named in honour of Tom Grace, a young Southend fan who sadly died at the age of just 15. The inaugural winner was Johnny Herd, who has signed professional terms with the club, whilst 2008/9 saw Craig Calver claim the prize.
At the outset of 2008, an opportunity became available for the Shrimpers Trust to have their name emblazoned on the shirts of the Under-18 team. This came just as Duncan’s charges enjoyed their best-ever run in the F.A. Youth Cup, beating Academy opposition in Derby County and Stoke City to reach the last sixteen.
The deal continued into 2008/9, when the team claimed the Football League Youth Alliance South-East Conference for the first time in the club’s history, and was renewed at Roots Hall - for a further donation of £10,000 - on the day Blues’ Youths defeated F.A. Youth Cup and F.A. Premier Academy League double-winners Arsenal in the pre-season Toomey Trophy.
A significant amount of Trust members’ money has been invested in the club’s Youth Department and Centre of Excellence over the past four seasons, but with Franck Moussa, Johnny Herd and Stuart O’Keefe all earning senior deals at Southend, and with revenue raised by the sale of promising youngsters Femi Orenuga (Everton), Medi Abalimba (Derby) and Michael Ngoo (Liverpool), we hope that the results are now becoming clear.
In this section, you can continue to follow the fortunes of the next batch of stars; the likes of Justin Hazell, who has already made his first-team debut in the F.A. Cup, Duran Reynolds and Merrick James-Lewis. There are extensive Under-18 match reports, statistics and player profiles, and look out for some special interviews throughout the upcoming campaign.
Please enjoy the articles and remember the club’s Youth Department is the future of Southend United F.C.