Colchester unearth another gem in Elito

IT'S still very early days, but Colchester United could have unearthed a real gem in the shape of exciting winger Medi Elito.The U's have benefited from the nurturing of some young raw talent in recent seasons, most notably Lomana Lua Lua and Greg Halford, who both gave terrific service to the club before generating a combined total of £4.

By Carl Marston

IT'S still very early days, but Colchester United could have unearthed a real gem in the shape of exciting winger Medi Elito.

The U's have benefited from the nurturing of some young raw talent in recent seasons, most notably Lomana Lua Lua and Greg Halford, who both gave terrific service to the club before generating a combined total of £4.75million in the transfer market.

Like Lua Lua, who eventually moved to Newcastle for a £2.25m fee in 2000, the latest United starlet was born in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


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Elito has made a similar impression to that of Lua Lua, during his first season with the youth team, and has already been picked for England at under-17 level.

A clutch of Premiership clubs were believed to be interested in signing the U's tricky winger, led by champions Manchester United.

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But last week Elito, no doubt conscious that his immediate future would be best spent as a bright prospect at Layer Road, rather than in the shade at a “bigger” club, signed his first professional contract with the U's.

The 17-year-old still has a long way to go, to establish himself in the Football League, as U's youth team manager Joe Dunne is quick to stress.

Elito was a key figure in another successful season for the youth team, which culminated in an appearance in the Puma Youth Alliance Cup Final for a second consecutive year. And like Lua Lua before him, he has also become a regular in the Reserves at a very early age.

However, he is still waiting to make his first-team debut, and has yet to even break into the Championship squad. That is a a big step which still needs to be negotiated.

Dunne said: “Medi (Elito) has got where he is through a lot of hard work, but there is also a lot of work for him still to do. It's important to calm everyone down. This is only half a step in the right direction.”

These are wise words from a youth team manager who himself enjoyed a good career as a professional footballer, through “hard work” and dedication - Dunne played more than 300 games as a full-back for Gillingham and Colchester before retiring due to a knee injury.

At least Elito can call on some invaluable experience with the England Under-17 squad. He played in all three matches in an International Tournament on the Algarve in Portugal last season, which is when the reported interest was shown by Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson.

The U's may have finished an excellent 10th in the Championship last term, but they are still finding it very difficult to compete in the transfer market, as was reflected in target man Chris Iwelumo's move to Charlton on a free transfer last month.

Manager Geraint Williams is busy trying to bolster his squad for the coming season, but the fruits from the youth team will always be vital to any success at Layer Road.

In addition to the departed Halford (£2.5m to Reading last January) and Lua Lua (originally signed as a 17-year-old from Leyton College), the U's youth-team has also been responsible for grooming current first-team regulars like skipper Karl Duguid, keeper Dean Gerken, right-back John White, centre-half Garry Richards and striker Jamie Guy.

And last month, a trio of youth teamers penned professional contracts - striker Tom Webb, defender Tom Devaux and midfielder Anthony Wordsworth.

Meanwhile, the U's have already finalised a couple of pre-season friendlies, both difficult away games. Williams' men will take on Conference hosts Cambridge United at the Abbey Stadium on Tuesday, July 24 (7.45pm), and a week later will travel to Kent for a pre-season fixture against League One hosts Gillingham on Tuesday, July 31.

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