League One champions Southend United have bolstered their squad with the signing of Sheffield United defender Simon Francis.
The 21-year-old was informed by Blades boss Neil Warnock that he was no longer required at Bramall Lane following the Yorkshire club's promotion.
Francis enjoyed a loan spell with Tranmere last season but has now joined The Shrimpers as they prepare for life in The Championship.
After signing a three-year deal, for an undisclosed fee, Francis revealed that his prior knowledge of Southend boss Steve Tilson from the England Under-21 setup was crucial to the transfer.
"Although Peter Taylor was the manager, Steve helped me out a lot and he seemed like a really nice guy when I was away with the Under-21's," Francis told the club's official website.
"It always helps that you have met the manager before you sign for a club and that was a big factor."