Under 18’s striker Jack Payne believes that the current squad is capable of retaining the BC Worldwide Challenge this weekend.
Southend United’s youngsters pit their wits against Colchester United, Millwall and Norwich City in the two-day tournament at Boots and Laces.
And Payne, who scored 14 goals in 30 games last season, believes his side can hold onto the trophy after defeating Norwich in last seasons final.
“I’m looking forward to this year’s tournament very much,” Payne told the official website.
“Having played in it last year and winning it, I’m hoping to do the same again and get the same kind of results as last year.
“The tournament is what you look forward to. The first few weeks are obviously hard, but at the moment the tournament is coming up and it’s kind of the reward. It also feels like the start of the season.”
This will be the fourth year running of the competition. Blues were runners-up to Everton in the first season before defeating the Canaries 3-2 in a captivating final last July.
18-year-old Payne considers the knockout format to be an important facet of the pre-season programme.
“During most of pre-season it’s just about getting into things and developing as a team, but this is an actual competitive tournament so it’s about winning as well,” he said.
“It’s the first competitive thing we do. I don’t see why we can’t repeat last year’s success.
“We’ve got a good team. We’ve played Colchester before, and that’s who we’ve got on Saturday. We’re definitely good enough to beat them, and we’re good enough to win the tournament.”
The BC Worldwide Challenge kicks off at 11.30am on Saturday when Millwall play Norwich City. Southend United host Colchester United at 3pm, with the third/fourth-place play-off and final of the competition taking place at the same time on Sunday.
Due to the inclement weather both days of the tournament will now take place at Boots and Laces rather than Roots Hall with entry also now free as a result.