Experienced players could be on the way out at Colchester

EXPERIENCE could well be in short supply at Colchester United next season.

U’s boss John Ward has admitted that some of his most experienced players are set to leave the Essex club this summer, in response to the Football League’s new regulations over player salaries.

It is a cause of frustration for Ward, who celebrates his 61st birthday on Saturday, but reality will be biting deep for not just the U’s, but many other clubs, from next term onwards.

More than a dozen of the U’s playing squad are out of contract at the end of this season, and the bulk of these are senior stalwarts.

Keeper Ben Williams, full-back Brian Wilson, centre-halves Magnus Okuonghae and Matt Heath, midfielders John-Joe O’Toole and Kem Izzet, and striker Kayode Odejayi are the seven big names who are out of contract in the summer.

Ward is unlikely to offer new deals to all of them, especially with the new rule that League One clubs can only spend 65% of their income on players’ wages from next season.

Ward admitted: “I guess that some of these boys may have to move on, so we will probably be less experienced next season.

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“We’ve had a good year with this group, and I think we can push it on next season.

“But I don’t think I’m going to get that opportunity with this strong group.

“It’s a strong group now, and it’s been improving, there’s no question of that, over the two years we have been together.

“But I don’t think I’m probably going to get that opportunity with them. However, that’s football, and who knows? It might happen.

“At the moment, some of these guys, who are really good people to have around your football club, may move on,” added Ward.

Defender Heath and keeper Williams, during recent interviews, have expressed their desire to stay at the club, as has skipper Izzet. Whether they will agree terms is another matter.

The futures of O’Toole, Okuonghae and Odejayi are more uncertain, as are a couple of the others nearing the end of their contracts, in Lloyd James and Ashley Vincent.

The likelihood of less experience in the ranks next season, has made this term’s near miss, in relation to the play-offs, all the more galling.

Ward explained: “We are a good side, and we’ve been close to being an extremely good side for some time. Trying to find the way, the reason and the edge – we haven’t been able to find it

“We haven’t quite been able to win those extra points we needed to push on,” added Ward.

The U’s players have enjoyed a three-day break, since Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Exeter, the last in a spell of nine games in just 28 days.

They will resume training today, ahead of the home game against Hartlepool on Good Friday (3pm).

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