Colchester United’s squad is looking strong even before any summer recruitment
- Credit: Richard Blaxall / Pagepix
Colchester United reshaped their squad with a glut of new recruits last summer, but the Essex club have no need for a big recruitment drive during this close-season, ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.
U’s boss John McGreal is hoping that the bulk of his out-of-contract players will sign new deals, and if that is the case, then only a trickle of new signings will be required.
Defenders Matt Briggs and Lloyd Doyley were both released, at the end of last season, after both had endured injury-ravaged campaigns.
But otherwise, McGreal offered new contracts to all his other senior players, whose current deals expired this summer.
Considering that the U’s only just missed out on the League Two play-offs, finishing just one point and one place outside the top seven, and that a number of long-term injury victims are now on the mend, no summer revolution is required.
Last summer, the likes of Gavin Massey, George Moncur and Alex Gilbey all left for pastures new, following the U’s relegation to the fourth tier. A revamp was needed.
By contrast, strikers Kurtis Guthrie and Denny Johnstone, defenders Frankie Kent and Luke Prosser, and midfielders Sammie Szmodics and Craig Slater, should all be fighting fit for the new season after respective long spells on the treatment table.
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They will feel like ‘new players,’ having been out for so long.
In short, whatever happens over the next few weeks, regarding the out-of-contract contingent, the U’s already look well equipped to mount a strong promotion push to coincide with McGreal’s second season in the hot seat.
Sam Walker played every minute of every game in the U’s League campaign last term, so there is no need to look any further for a No. 1.
His deputy, Dean Brill, has been offered a new deal and, with Dillon Barnes also on the books, the goalkeeping situation looks very healthy.
Much will depend on whether Richard Brindley signs a new contract. Brindley enjoyed a very consistent season, ending it very strongly in the right wing-back role.
Briggs’ departure, and Brennan Dickenson’s long-term cruciate ligament damage (he could be out until the turn of the year), means that new blood will probably be required down the left flank.
Indeed, it is that left-sided role that is the main worry for McGreal, although Lewis Kinsella returned to fitness during the closing weeks of last season and will now be looking to hold down a regular place at left-back..
Tom Eastman, who has been with the U’s since his switch from Ipswich Town in 2011, should sign a new deal this summer, as should the vastly experienced George Elokobi. If this duo stay, then central defence is not an issue for McGreal, himself a former centre-half, even if he persists with the successful three-man defence for the coming season.
Luke Prosser was ruled out from last November, while Frankie Kent sat out the last three months of the campaign. Both Prosser and Kent will bolster McGreal’s defensive options, alongside Eastman, Alex Wynter, Elokobi and Cameron James.
Owen Garvan’s departure in March, by mutual consent, was a blow for the U’s, but again they look well stocked with central midfielders.
Tom Lapslie had a fine season, and Sean Murray was as a shrewd acquisition from Swindon during the January transfer window.
Doug Loft, after a season of struggle against injury, returned to fitness during the closing weeks of last season, and Slater looked a class act until his season was cut short by a double hernia.
With Szmodics making progress after his broken leg, the U’s look strong in this department.
Will leading scorer Chris Porter leave, or will he stay? That is the burning question.
Veteran front-man Porter netted 16 goals last season, his best haul for a decade, and he has been offered a new deal, although he might be tempted to move closer to his northern roots.
Guthrie bagged 12 goals, before his season was cut short by an ankle injury in late February, while Johnstone sustained a knee injury a few weeks earlier at Accrington Stanley.
Both are set for key roles next season, while Drey Wright will look to step up a gear and Macauley Bonne has also been offered a new deal.
Naturally, McGreal would also love to welcome back Reading attacker Tarique Fosu. He has been offered a new contract by the Royals, but could yet be available on a loan deal again next season.