Cureton bids fond farewell to Iwelumo

GOLDEN Boot winner Jamie Cureton wishes his former strike-force partner, Chris Iwelumo, all the best at his new club Charlton Athletic.Iwelumo is poised to sign for the Addicks today, after two sensational seasons at Colchester United.

By Carl Marston

GOLDEN Boot winner Jamie Cureton wishes his former strike-force partner, Chris Iwelumo, all the best at his new club Charlton Athletic.

Iwelumo is poised to sign for the Addicks today, after two sensational seasons at Colchester United.

The Scotsman's two-year deal at Layer Road has run out, and he is expected to sign a new three-year contract at Charlton this morning, therefore teaming up with the man who first brought him to Colchester - Phil Parkinson.

Charlton assistant boss Parkinson, who guided the U's to promotion from League One in 2005-06, signed both Iwelumo and Cureton during his successful stint at the Essex club.

Cureton is again set to lead the U's front-line next season, after banging home 24 goals in the club's marvellous first ever year in the Championship. But he will need to have a new partner, following Iwelumo's imminent move to the Valley.

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“You can understand why Chris (Iwelumo) has taken this decision. It's a great opportunity for him,” revealed Cureton last night.

“We've been very close friends, both on and off the pitch, and it's been great playing alongside him.

“I don't think the Colchester fans can grumble, because you can't argue with his record, scoring 19 goals one season and 18 the next.

“Chris has given good service to Colchester, though perhaps the club could have done a little more to try and keep him. Once his contract had been allowed to run down to less than six months, he was always likely to go. That ploy can often backfire.

“But it's hard for a club like Colchester to compete. Charlton are coming down from the Premiership, and so will be given a lot of parachute money as well (£20m over the next two years).

“It would have been very difficult for Chris to turn down such an offer.

“They will probably sell a couple of their current strikers, so Chris should be a big player for them next season,” added Cureton.

Iwelumo may have only spent two seasons at Layer Road, but he will always go down as one of the most influential players in the club's history.

Of course, strikers of the calibre of Martyn King, Tony Adcock and Roy McDonough all played far more games and scored many more goals than Iwelumo, but the U's most recent centre-forward combined an impressive goal ratio with helping to mastermind some historic team success.

The ex-Stoke and Brighton hit-man spearheaded the U's attack almost single-handedly in their promotion winning campaign of 2005-06.

He had a variety of strike-force partners during the course of that season, including Gareth Williams, Jamie Guy, Greg Halford, Cureton (on loan from Swindon), Tony Thorpe and Scott Vernon, as well as playing several away games as the sole striker.

But whereas as his fellow strikers came and went, Iwelumo started all 46 league games and netted 19 goals as Parkinson's men finished second in League One.

Over the last year, he has had the benefit of a regular partner in livewire Cureton. The two complemented each other perfectly, bagging 42 goals between them to earn the title of the Championship's most prolific strike-force.

Now that lethal little-and-large partnership has been broken up. Cureton is still under contract at Colchester, and is looking forward to trying to retain his Golden Boot next term.

But manager Geraint Williams faces a huge task trying to find a new striker to fill the sizeable boots left by Iwelumo.

“We were perhaps one striker short last season, so I reckon we need to sign a couple of strikers over the summer,” insisted Cureton.

“Richard (Garcia) is also out of contract, and if he goes, then perhaps we'll need three, because Richard was always another option up front. That would leave only me and Jamie (Guy).

“Parky (Phil Parkinson) was obviously a big factor in Chris opting for Charlton. I'm sure that he had lots of offers elsewhere as well, but Parky would have persuaded (Alan) Pardew (Charlton manager) to sign him.

“I've obviously known Parky for several years. I played with him at Reading, and it was he who signed me from Swindon. He also brought Chris to the club.

“Charlton are a big club and will be pushing for promotion next season, but we are playing at the same level as them.

“His departure makes it harder for us, but it will be fun,” added Cureton.

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