PETER Gilbert is the first player to be linked with a summer switch to Southend United.

The 26-year-old left-back, who was with Northampton Town last season, has previously worked with new Southend boss Paul Sturrock at both Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth Argyle. And they could be heading for another reunion at Roots Hall, once Southend come out of their transfer embargo. Before joining Northampton, Gilbert was on pre-season trial with the Blues. But the Cobblers have now withdrawn their offer of a new contract, meaning Gilbert is available on a free transfer.

“He is now holding out for another club and so we have taken his contract away,” confirmed Town boss Ian Sampson.

“He cannot chase a deal with another club while having our contract as a back-up.

“I am not allowing him to do that to me, the club or the supporters and I feel very let down.

“He has gone back on his word. He reported for pre-season training last week but still did not bring the paperwork, so I set him a further deadline which he failed to meet.

“We gave him an opportunity last season when he was out of work. We took him off the scrap heap, we put him up and did everything he asked of us and we helped him get his career going again.

“But we have been repaid by him jumping ship at the first opportunity despite agreeing terms with us. “The matter is now closed and we move on.”

Gilbert has also had spells with Leicester City, Doncaster Rovers and Oldham Athletic during his career which has seen him make 174 appearances.

Southend reserves have gained re-entry to the Combination League.

Former Southend manager Steve Tilson had opted to take the second string out of an organised format. New boss Paul Sturrock has reversed that decision.

And Harry Crawford has signed his first professional contract at Southend United. The teenage striker forced his way in to the Blues first team towards the end of last season and has now signed a two-year deal.

“I’m really proud to commit my future to the football club,” Crawford said.

“The end of last season was brilliant for me. Getting some playing time for the first team and get my first goal was nice.

“Hopefully I can now carry on under the new manager.”