Ex Town defender McGreal is ‘deeply saddened’ by Colchester United sacking

John McGreal was sacked by Colchester United following their League Two play-off loss. Photo: PA

John McGreal was sacked by Colchester United following their League Two play-off loss. Photo: PA - Credit: PA

Former Ipswich Town defender John McGreal has spoken publicly for the first time since he was sacked as Colchester United manager.

McGreal spent four years in charge of the U’s, leading them to League Two finishes of eighth, 13th, eighth and sixth, the recent coronavirus curtailed campaign ending with a two-legged play-off semi-final defeat to Exeter.

Speaking to the Colchester website, the 48-year-old said: “I am deeply saddened to leave Colchester United. I have spent 11 years of my footballing life at the club, including four fantastic years in charge of first team affairs.

“I am grateful to (chairman) Robbie Cowling for giving me the opportunity to manage this great football club and I wish him and everyone associated with the club all the best moving forward.

“I want to thank my backroom team and everyone I have worked with over the years.

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“A special mention must go to Steve Ball, his wife and their family whose support has been invaluable to me and my family over the last four years. We will never forget.

“The players have been an absolute pleasure to coach and work with every day and I am sure they will fully expect to challenge for promotion again next season, after narrowly missing out this season.

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“I am proud of the big part I have played in my various roles at the club including helping to build and promote the academy.

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“Being able to provide pathways for players through the various age groups into first team football and watch them move on and progress in their careers has been hugely satisfying.

“The memories of this season will live with me forever.

“Reaching the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup for the first time in 45 years with various victories against Swindon Town, Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur and Crawley Town.

“Playing Manchester United at Old Trafford for the first time in the clubs history in front of nearly 6,000 Colchester United fans.

“In the league we had a run of 16 games unbeaten, the longest unbeaten run in the EFL culminating in the club’s first play-off semi-final in 22 years, narrowly missing out, in extra-time, on the play-off final.

“Finally, I want to say a special thank you to the fans, the old and new generations. The relationship between the fans and the team is the best I’ve ever known it and I am really proud to have been part of it and share so many amazing memories with them.

“I wish the club every success for the future. Stay safe everyone and hopefully our paths will cross again soon.”

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Explaining his decision to sack McGreal, chairman Cowling said: “I spoke with John McGreal to explain that the club is going to be implementing a new plan that will see the first team being even more tightly aligned to the academy and that I along with my three other directors, (Tony Humes, Tony Ashby and Jon De Souza), felt a change of first team head coach was required if our new direction was to be successfully implemented.

“This was a very tough decision for a number of reasons, but not least because John has been first team head coach for the last four years.

“This last season has been one of the club’s best seasons for a number of years and John should be very proud of his time in charge of the first team.”

McGreal has previously been linked with the vacancy at Tranmere Rovers, where he was a successful player before joining Ipswich in 1999, with the Merseyside club looking to replace Micky Mellon following his departure for Scottish club Dundee United.

Wayne Brown is the favourite to replace McGreal at the Community Stadium. The former Ipswich and Colchester defender is currently manager of Isthmian League North side Maldon and Tiptree, who have a close alliance with the U’s.

McGreal’s number two Steve Ball, former Exeter City and MK Dons boss Paul Tisdale and ex-U’s Under-23 manager Kevin Horlock have also been linked with the job.

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