POLL: Tough times ahead for Colchester United, says chairman Robbie Cowling

Colchester United boss Tony Humes

Colchester United boss Tony Humes - Credit: Gregg Brown

Colchester United chairman and owner Robbie Cowling has predicted another “tough two years” ahead for the club.

Despite the change of manager on Monday, with Tony Humes stepping up from his role as Academy manager to take over on the first team hot seat, in succession to Joe Dunne, U’s supremo Cowling is expecting more testing times to come.

Dunne presided over two seasons of fending off the threat of relegation, which he managed to achieve, and Humes will likewise have a battle on his hands to keep the U’s in League One.

The former Ipswich Town defender will take charge of his first game at Walsall on Saturday – ironically that would have been Dunne’s 100th game as manager – with the U’s lying second-from-bottom with just one point from five games to date.

“We are a club that is punching a division above our weight, in many, many forms,” insisted Cowling.


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“I know we have got a nicer stadium than some, and a nicer training ground, but what goes out on the pitch is really dictated by the budget.

“And that is dictated by how many fans turn up and watch us, so you can see where we are – we are punching above that weight.

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“Every year we maintain our status, and at this moment we are doing well.

“Hopefully, in a few years time, when we see more of this young talent come through, we can perhaps start to do even better, regardless of how many people come to watch us, but that is going to take some time.

“We are seeing some of the benefits already of what we have done, but we are going to have a couple more tough years. I’ve never said anything other than that, since we had to rip the heart out of the playing budget,” added Cowling.

The Financial Fair Play (FPP) has had a big effect on clubs like Colchester United, who have had to cut their cloth accordingly.

For the first time, clubs have been forced to restrict their spending, with the amount spent depending on the income generated by the club.

Last season, League One clubs could only spend 60% of their turnover on wages and, with the U’s average home attendance just 3,735 last term (the fourth lowest in the division), that gives very little leeway for the manager, then Dunne but now Humes, to spend on new players.

Humes, who has been Academy manager for the last five years, is fully aware of the Essex club’s financial position.

And the fact that Humes was already well embedded in the U’s philosophy, was a big reason for his appointment following Dunne’s departure, which was by mutual consent.

“We are not trying to just appoint managers and join this money-go-round that everybody else has had,” insisted Cowling

“It’s important that we continue to do what the club is striving to do.

“I like to do deal with these things (manager appointments) as soon as I can. I don’t think it helps if we prolong things.

“The sooner we acted, the better.

“I’ve had a lot of success in business by growing our own, and then making appointments internally.

“That is naturally the first place I look, and we’ve got a lot of good pedigree around the club.

“We’ve brought a lot of coaches into the club who have a really good background, so there’s no reason why we have to look elsewhere.

“We are not just looking to produce (young) players like Alex Gilbey, we are also looking to produce managers. Continuity is very important,” added Cowling.

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