High hopes for U's ahead of new season
PUBLISHED: 18:47 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 18:48 31 July 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Colchester United correspondent CARL MARSTON casts his eye over the key arrivals and main departures of the summer, ahead of the 2018-19 season.
Football supporters are always full of hope, at the start of any season, and Colchester United fans certainly have cause for optimism ahead of their club’s third season back in League Two, following relegation in 2016.
Bolstered by a number of shrewd summer signings, the U’s strung together an impressive array of pre-season results ahead of this Saturday’s fourth tier opener, away at Notts County.
John McGreal’s men won six of their seven senior friendlies, away at Maldon & Tiptree, Braintree, Colwyn Bay and Dartford, while beating Millwall and Gillingham at home (newly-named JobServe Community Stadium). They drew 1-1 at Dagenham & Redbridge.
Although losing experienced keeper Sam Walker, who turned down the offer of a new deal, plus club stalwart Drey Wright and midfielder Sean Murray, the U’s class of 2018-19 does look a strong one, especially as an attacking force with new recruits Frank Nouble, Luke Norris and Aaron Collins, plus midfielder Harry Pell, adding strength in depth.
Another boost was centre-half Luke Prosser choosing to stay at the Essex club by signing a two-year deal in early June.
Here is a run-down of the key arrivals, and departures, over the last three months.
Certainly the biggest loss for the U’s, it will take time to adjust to having no Sam Walker between the posts this season.
The 26-year-old rattled up 213 appearances for the U’s, and was a terrific servant for the club, but he fancied a new challenge and so turned down the offer of a new deal.
Ex-Chelsea trainee Walker eventually signed for Championship club Reading, on a three-year-contract, last week.
Injuries dogged this classy midfield man. The Scotsman ended up on loan at Dundee United last term, and was released by the U’s at the end of last season.
He has signed a one-year deal at Scottish club Partick Thistle, where he will hopefully steer clear of injuries.
Another player haunted by injuries, Loft never really enjoyed a long spell of being fit during his two years at Colchester.
It was no surprise when he was released this summer. The veteran is now hoping to relaunch his career at Shrewsbury Town, after signing a one-year deal following a successful trial.
Having turned down the offer of a new package, ex-Swindon midfeilder Murray sprung a surprise by signing for Danish Superliga club Vejle Boldklub on a three-year contract last week.
At the start of the summer, former Acdaemy product Wright ended his long association with the U’s by moving north of the border. The winger signed a two-year deal with Scottish club St Johnstone on May 9.
The U’s made their intentions clear, just a few days after the end of last season, by landing this tall, imposing midfielder from League Two rivals Cheltenham Town, on a three-year contract for an undisclosed six-figure fee .
Pell has caught the eye in pre-season, and the 6ft 4ins man should be an important player for the U’s in the middle of the park.
Former Ipswich Town front-runner Nouble, much-travelled, can be a real handful in League Two.
He scored 10 goals while operating as a wide-man at Newport County last season, but should operate as a centre-forward for the U’s, so he will hope to score even more goals for his new club. The 26-year-old signed a two-year deal on June 8.
This young, up-and-coming attacker signed on a season-long loan from new Premier League outfit Wolves in early June. He set up, and scored, several goals during pre-season, which bodes well for the coming months.
Despite Swindon exercising the option of keeping Norris for another year, the striker chose to embrace a new challenge with the U’s, signing a three-year contract at the end of June.
He has been struggling for fitness, after dislocating a shoulder in April, but did make an appearance as a substitute against Millwall, hitting the bar with a thunderous shot.