Colchester’s summer clear-out continues

Colchester United have seen David Prutton and Phil Ifil leave the club.

COLCHESTER United’s summer clear-out has continued this morning with the news that David Prutton and Phil Ifil have both left the club.

Midfielder Prutton joined the U’s on a free transfer in February after being released by Leeds, but only signed a short six-month deal. Aidy Boothroyd offered the 28-year-old a new deal at the end of the season and that deal remained on the table when John Ward took over the managerial hotseat.

However, after scoring three goals in 19 appearances for the Essex club, Prutton has rejected the deal and is set to sign elsewhere, with Brighton and Swindon both believed to be interested.

Meanwhile, versatile right-back Ifil has been released by club at the end of his contract after Ward withdrew the fresh deal that Boothroyd had put on the table at the end of the season. The U’s boss has decided that the wages paid to the former Tottenham man could be better spent elsewhere.

The 23-year-old was signed by Geraint Williams from Spurs in the January transfer window of the Championship season of 2007/08. He fell out of favour under Paul Lambert in the following League One campaign, but his versatility down the right side made him a useful asset to Boothroyd last season as he scored two goals in 30 appearances.

The duo’s departure means that nine players have now left the Weston Homes Community Stadium this summer, with David Fox signing for Norwich, loanees Kevin Lisbie (Ipswich), Franck Queudrue (Birmingham) and Danny Batth (Wolves) returning to their parent clubs and Scott Vernon, Matt Lockwood and Russell Malton all released.

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In addition, a question mark still hangs over key player Marc Tierney’s future, midfielder David Perkins is still seeking a move up north, while cruciate knee injury victims John Joe O’Toole and Morten Knudsen both face lengthy spells on the sidelines.

There is no doubt that Colchester’s squad had become severely bloated last season after chairman Robbie Cowling backed new boss Boothroyd to bring in his own set of players following Lambert’s exit early on in the campaign.

However, some U’s fans are now concerned that, following both Lambert and Boothroyd’s failure to achieve promotion back to the Championship with decent budgets, their fiercely ambitious chairman has finally resigned himself to a season of consolidation and a longer-term plan for success.

The club’s passionate owner and chairman – who has also recently appointed himself as the chief executive, too – has already had to defend his internal appointment of Ward, claiming it was not simply “the cheap option”.

And following the �425,000 compensation pay-out from Norwich City over Lambert’s acrimonious switch, as well as a further undisclosed compensation sum from Coventry City following Boothroyd’s departure, Cowling was quick to inform fans that “the money had already been spent” and that Ward would “have to work within a budget”.

Since then, Ward – who cancelled the club’s pre-season trip to Holland – has warned fans they must be patient regarding incoming transfer activity, while he has also suggested that the club will increasingly look to nurture youth team players.

Even with the numerous departures and further likely exits, Colchester will still have a solid squad of about the 25-player mark, with the likes of Pat Baldwin, Medy Elito and Simon Hackney all set to come in from the cold and effectively be like new signings.

The one position the U’s do look short on is central midfield, while the forward line arguably needs strengthening following the loss of last season’s top-scorer, Kevin Lisbie.

However, should reinforcements arrive in those positions, Ward will be hoping that his tighter-knit, more moderately paid squad can form a strong unity and – just as Blockpool did in the Championship last season – prove that you don’t need to splash the cash to achieve promotion.

– Colchester United are expected to unveil two new signings today. For all the latest, keep an eye on throughout the day.

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