Promotion elation turns to deflation
THE elation that followed Colchester United's dramatic promotion to the Championship has given way to “deflation” at Layer Road.The Essex club are no strangers to battling against the odds to achieve success but their prospects for next season in the Championship have already taken a knock, just six weeks after wrapping up the second automatic promotion slot from League One.
By Carl Marston
THE elation that followed Colchester United's dramatic promotion to the Championship has given way to “deflation” at Layer Road.
The Essex club are no strangers to battling against the odds to achieve success but their prospects for next season in the Championship have already taken a knock, just six weeks after wrapping up the second automatic promotion slot from League One.
Still reeling from last week's news that manager Phil Parkinson had resigned, arguably their most influential player Neil Danns left the club on Monday, leaving U's supporters feeling very frustrated.
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Although the U's immediately rejected Parkinson's resignation last week, it looks certain that the 38-year-old will be appointed as the new manager of Hull City by the end of this month. It looks likely that United will have to be content with a compensation package which could exceed £100,000.
Danns, meanwhile, will be back at Layer Road in the colours of Birmingham City next season after putting pen to paper at St Andrews on Monday afternoon. The Liverpudlian has signed a three-year deal with the Midlands club, who were relegated from the Premiership last term.
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Colchester will receive an initial down-payment of £500,000 for their star midfielder and this figure could swell to £850,000 depending on appearances. Danns' previous club Blackburn will receive a percentage of this transfer fee, due to a sell-on clause incorporated within the player's initial move from Ewood Park to Layer Road.
Danns plundered 16 goals last campaign to help the U's win promotion to the second tier of the Football League for the first time in their history. U's fans would have loved to see the 23-year-old sign a new contract at Colchester for next season but at least they will be left with some very happy memories of their exciting attacking midfielder.
Danns acknowledged the importance of his two-year stay at Layer Road, during which he netted 28 goals in 87 appearances.
“I had a great time at Colchester and it kick-started my career. But when a club the size of Birmingham comes in for you it's hard to day no,” revealed Danns.
“There is so much prestige about the club and the quality of players that are here. It's a great opportunity for me.
“My time at Colchester has been absolutely tremendous and I couldn't have asked much more from the club. The fans, all the players and the staff at the club were great.
“But there comes a time in everyone's career when you want to test yourself and move to the next step. I think Birmingham will be back in the Premiership before too long. I have come here to further my career,” added Danns.
Earlier in his career, bustling central midfielder Danns made three appearances in the Premiership with Blackburn and last season he surprised a couple of Championship clubs in the FA Cup - he netted in the U's 2-1 win at Sheffield United and bagged a brace in the 3-1 demolition of Derby County. He also celebrated the birth of his first son, Jayden, in January.
Birmingham manager Steve Bruce was understandably happy to have snapped up the signature of Danns, not least because several other Championship clubs were interested in signing the U's ace.
Bruce remarked: “We are delighted to have captured the services of such an exciting young player. He plays with tremendous commitment and energy.”
In the absence of a manager in residence, U's chief executive Marie Partner completed the negotiations of the Danns deal. The move was not really a surprise, especially as the player's contract expired at the end of this month.
Mrs Partner revealed: “Colchester United made every effort to retain Neil's services by offering an extensively improved contract that we felt was on a par with those offered by existing Championship clubs.
“Unfortunately, Neil has moved on now, but he played an important part in our promotion story and we all wish him well for the future.”
In addition to Parkinson's resignation and Danns' departure, the U's have also lost the services of Stuart Ayles, their physio and fitness coach.
Ayles, who was one of Parkinson's first appointments when he came to Layer Road just over three years ago, has tendered his resignation.
Meanwhile, left-back Stephen Hunt, who was one of four players released by Parkinson at the end of last season, has found a new club. Former Southampton trainee Hunt, whose last season at Layer Road was decimated by injury, has joined League Two club Notts County. Last week, former Colchester defender and player-of-the-year Alan White also signed for the Nottingham club.
Striker Gareth Williams, full-back Sam Stockley and front-runner Tony Thorpe, the other three players to be released last month, have yet to secure new deals elsewhere.
With both Parkinson and U's chairman Peter Heard still on holiday, it is unlikely that there will be any further developments on the manager merry-go-round this week - Parkinson still has a year left on his contract.
Hull chairman Adam Pearson said: “We noted that Parkinson handed in his resignation and we're interested in following it up.”
The Tigers are expected to begin talks with Parkinson within the next seven days.
Their previous manager Peter Taylor moved to Crystal Palace last week, earning the KC Stadium club a sum of £300,000 in compensation.