Chilvers adds to Colchester's woes

HIGHLY-rated defender Liam Chilvers left Colchester United to join Championship rivals Preston North End last night.Former Arsenal trainee Chilvers was the last U's player still out of contract at Layer Road, and he thought long and hard before eventually deciding to leave Layer Road.

By Carl Marston

HIGHLY-rated defender Liam Chilvers left Colchester United to join Championship rivals Preston North End last night.

Former Arsenal trainee Chilvers was the last U's player still out of contract at Layer Road, and he thought long and hard before eventually deciding to leave Layer Road.

These have been very unsettling times since United made history by winning promotion to the second tier of the Football League.

The elation of that achievement, with automatic promotion wrapped up at Yeovil at the beginning of May, has long since disappeared.

During the last couple of months, the Essex club have lost their star midfielder Neil Danns to Birmingham City (for £500,000) and, more importantly, their star manager Phil Parkinson to Hull City (for an agreed compensation package of £400,000).

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Now Chilvers' departure for Deepdale has left the U's needing to bolster their squad still further - they not only need to find a new manager, but also at least a couple of new players.

Chilvers revealed on the club's website: “Colchester had offered me a much better deal than I had been on previously, but I felt it was right for me to test myself at a club that I feel have a realistic chance of going for a Premiership place.

“I came to Colchester from Arsenal to play first-team football and, after loan spells, knew it was a club where my game could improve.

Like Dannsy (Neil Danns), I felt that if I performed well, I could move back to a bigger club, and that it is how it has turned out.

“But I really enjoyed my time at Layer Road, and I think the U's have the players to compete in the Championship and that they will do well this season,” added Chilvers. Chelmsford-born Chilvers had two initial loan spells at Colchester in 2003 before signing a permanent contract in the summer of 2004. He impressed during the next couple of seasons, missing just five league fixtures in the 2004-05 campaign, and then playing a big part in the U's romotion push last term.

The 24-year-old contributed two goals last season - in the 1-1 draw at MK Dons in mid-August, and the opener in the 2-1 win at Bournemouth last April. Preston have reached the Championship play-offs for the last two seasons. And while they completed the signing of Chilvers yesterday, they also banked a big sum for their Jamaican international defender Claude Davis, who has moved to Sheffield United for a fee that could rise to £3m. The U's still have three recognised centre-halves in Wayne Brown, Pat Baldwin and Garry Richards. And while boss Parkinson, Danns and Chilvers have all left, the club have been boosted by the arrival of front-runner Jamie Cureton (from Swindon) and midfielder Johnnie Jackson (ex- Spurs).

Caretaker manager Geraint Williams confirmed last night: “We are disappointed that Liam (Chilvers) has left, but that's football and the club will move on.

“He was offered a good deal, which he and his agent were thinking about. There was no indication that he was looking for anything else, or that he wanted to move on. But it seems that there were reasons why he wanted to move north (he has a girlfriend based in Liverpool), so that's why he has gone.

“We are continuing to look for new players to bolster the squad. Paul Dyer (chief scout), Brian Owen (coach) and I have a list of players, and if there are any that we think will improve the squad, then we will bring it to the attention of the chairman.”

Ex-U's midfielder Thomas Pinualt is having a trial at League One club Brentford and former U's full-back Sam Stockley has been linked with Championship side Luton Town.

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