Cowling backs Ward for the long haul

COLCHESTER United chairman Robbie Cowling is confident that the club’s new-found stability, under manager John Ward, will result in another top 10 finish this season.

COLCHESTER United chairman Robbie Cowling is confident that the club’s new-found stability, under manager John Ward, will result in another top 10 finish this season.

After the short-term reigns of previous managers Paul Lambert and Aidy Boothroyd, which were each accompanied by a flurry of new signings, the U’s have now reverted to a more settled squad under current boss Ward.

And while the lack of summer signings – just three to date in left-back Michael Rose, teenage centre-half Tom Eastman and former favourite Karl Duguid – might give cause for concern within the competitive ranks of League One, Cowling is happy with the direction that club is taking.

Lambert lasted less than a year as Colchester manager, before he walked out to take on the job at Norwich City, while Boothroyd also stayed at the Weston Homes Community Stadium for less than 12 months before his switch to Coventry City.

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Ward, however, is with the U’s for the long haul.

He guided United to 10th spot in League One in his first season in 2010-11, and has worked closely with chairman Cowling to take the club forward, while working within the restrictions of the budget.

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In Cowling’s opinion, another top 10 finish is within reach.

“I think with the budget we have got – I know a lot of people have said that we have cut our budget, but it is still a really good budget – I think it is a good enough budget to get in the top 10,” insisted Cowling.

“That’s the sort of target that we will be looking to, at the very least.

“Every team that starts in this league has earned the right to be in it, that’s the way I look at it.

“Whether they be there via promotion, or have got relegated or because they managed to maintain their status.

“As always, I am optimistic, but I do really believe that it’s the best I’ve see us going into a season, since we’ve been in League One, now that I know a little more about League One.

“I was optimistic that first year (2008-09), but that was a little bit different,” added Cowling.

The U’s chairman also referred to the knock-on effect felt by the short-term tenures of Lambert and Boothroyd.

Lambert was with the U’s for just 10 months, before leaving just one week into the 2009-10 season. His many signings included David Fox, Lee Beevers, Marc Tierney, Ben Williams, Joel Thomas, Gary Holt, Simon Hackney, Ashley Vincent and Magnus Okuonghae.

Boothroyd’s nine-month stay, ending last summer, was also a time of upheaval in terms of player movement with the likes of John-Joe O’Toole, Kayode Odejayi, David Prutton, Ian Henderson and Morten Knudsen all signed.

Ward too made several changes during his first transfer window in charge, securing the services of Andy Bond, Ben Coker, Lloyd James, Brian Wilson, Carl Pentney and David Mooney (on loan).

But it has been far quieter on the transfer front this summer, with the squad trimmed down to size.

“Last year, John (Ward) was having to manage a lot of what had gone on before him,” continued Cowling.

“Really the squad was made up from three managers, who had selected the players.

“A lot of them are still here, so they have brought in good players for us. But this is really John Ward’s squad now.

“He has changed a few things and also renewed the players he wanted to keep, so there is more stability and that should help.

“It has been a quiet summer in terms of comings and goings.

“That’s partly because over the last couple of seasons we have perhaps had a bigger squad than needed, with managers coming and going.

“It’s been a matter of keeping the ones that we felt should do well for the squad. We are now down to the sort of numbers and costs that we require to go forward.

“John has a budget to work to, and I allow him to get on with that.”

Ward has been endeavouring to sign at least one new striker, via the loan market, for the last few weeks. but for the moment without much success.

David Mooney, on loan from Reading, top-scored with 14 goals for the U’s last season. He has since signed for League One rivals Leyton Orient.

Cowling confirmed: “The loan market worked well for us last year with David Mooney.

“It is quite a cost-effective way of getting a good player in, and I will certainly encourage him (Ward) to do that, but ultimately it is his decision.”

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