Colchester land a giant

COLCHESTER United will today unveil Dagenham & Redbridge's giant defender, Magnus Okuonghae, as their third new face of the summer.

Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United will today unveil Dagenham & Redbridge's giant defender, Magnus Okuonghae, as their third new face of the summer.

And the U's are also homing in on a new striker, which they hope to finalise later in the week.

Okuonghae turned down the offer of a new three-year deal at Victoria Road this summer, and has instead opted to switch to Essex neighbours Colchester.

The Daggers will be entitled to compensation for their 23-year-old Nigerian-born centre-half, who was voted the supporters' player-of-the-year last term. The fee will probably be decided by a Tribunal.

Okunonghae had been the subject of interest from several Championship clubs, including Plymouth and QPR, while Wycombe had also been linked with him.

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However, he has choosen Colchester instead, so following in the footsteps of midfielder David Fox (from Blackpool) and defender Lee Beevers (from Lincoln), who both arrived earlier in the summer.

Having spent some time as a junior at Fulham, 6ft 3ins Okuonghae moved to Rushden & Diamonds in 2002, when the Northamptonshire club were still in the Football League.

He played 22 league games for the Diamonds before a brief spell at Aldershot Town, in 2006, followed by longer stints at St Albans City and Crawley Town.

But it is with the Daggers where his career has really taken off. He played more than 50 games for them last season as John Still's men came close to making the League Two play-offs. In fact, he only missed one of the 46 league games.

The arrival of another centre-half, in Okuonghae, would further suggest that club captain Chris Coyne will be leaving the Community Stadium before the start of the season.

Meanwhile, the U's are stepping up their search for another striker, even though club record signing Steven Gillespie is hoping that all his injuries of the past year are now behind him.

U's Chief Executive, Steve Bradshaw, revealed yesterday: “It is clear the sort of players that Paul (Lambert) is wanting to bring into the club - hard-working, aggressive and fully-committed players.

“We will have one of the biggest squads in the division, to match the chairman's (Robbie Cowling's) ambition. Finishing in sixth spot (last play-off spot) would be the minimum for success next season.

“It is likely that one or two players will leave before the start of the season, because it's difficult to keep everyone happy with a squad bigger than 24 or 25.

“People tend to get very down if they are not in the team, or the 16-man squad. It can have an adverse effect of their careers, to spend a year in the reserves.

“But we are also in negotiations for another striker,” added Bradshaw.

The U's had a bid for Shrewsbury Town hot-shot, Grant Holt, turned down last month. Holt was the leading scorer in League Two last term.

Plymouth Argyle's out-of-favour striker, Jermaine Easter, who had a spell on loan with the U's last season, could also be in the frame.

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