Right time for U's to sell Halford

NO CLUB likes to lose a star player, but the time was never going to be better for Colchester United to sell their biggest asset, Greg Halford.The U's had resisted the temptation to accept an offer for Halford last summer (from Sheffield United), and the previous year, and their reward has been riches both on and off the pitch.

By Carl Marston

NO CLUB likes to lose a star player, but the time was never going to be better for Colchester United to sell their biggest asset, Greg Halford.

The U's had resisted the temptation to accept an offer for Halford last summer (from Sheffield United), and the previous year, and their reward has been riches both on and off the pitch.

Instead of a fee of around £1.5m, which was around the asking rate a few months ago, United finally agreed terms with Reading on Tuesday for a club record fee of £2.5m. Moreover, the Essex club had already bagged 44 Championship points, due in part to Halford's consistent performances at right-back during the first half of the season.


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And Geraint Williams' men then went on to confirm that they still have the ability to sustain a play-off push, even without Halford, by defeating third-placed Preston 1-0 just a few hours later.

Reading manager Steve Coppell admitted that his Premiership newcomers had been forced to dig deep into their pockets, to finally get their man.

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“It's a massive amount of money for him (Halford), but that's a reflection of the times,” explained Royals' boss Coppell.

“I said to him that he was getting more expensive every day! Every time we phoned, it was an extra few bob.

“We've tracked Greg for a while and he's our type of player. He's of a certain age (22), he's not been there and done it, so he's got to prove himself. He's got the ability to go and do it,” added Coppell.

U's boss Geraint Williams did try and sign a new face before the transfer window closed last night, but he was not too disappointed to miss out.

He was satisfied with the manner of Halford's departure, both for the player and the club, and he was certainly delighted to see substitute Garry Richards head home a 66th-minute winner against Preston.

“Financially, Greg's move is a big deal for Colchester United. We felt that last summer was not the right time for us to be letting him go,” revealed Williams.

The U's had only just secured promotion to the Championship, for the very first time in their history, and they had already lost previous manager Phil Parkinson (to Hull), star midfielder Neil Danns (to Birmingham) and talented defender Liam Chilvers (to Preston).

Williams continued: “At the time, we told Greg to just give us his best, and then see what happens. His attitude and his performances have been first-class this season, and so the offers that came in for him were getting better and better.

“Greg's performances merited this final deal. And I'm delighted for Greg, before Reading are a fantastic club, with an excellent manager in Steve Coppell and a good coach in Wally Downes.

“The owner (Robbie Cowling) and the Board are happy, and so is Greg. No one can blame him for being ambitious. I believe that the time is right for him.

“I did make enquiries about a few players, but the window for emergency loan deals reopens in a week, so there was no panic,” added Williams.

United wrapped up their 12th victory from their last 13 home games against Preston, and they have a chance to improve that record to 13 from 14 when second-placed Birmingham are the visitors on Saturday.

They are now just two points adrift of the play-offs, with 16 matches remaining.

Colchester United's home match against West Brom, postponed from February 17 because of the Baggies' presence in the fifth round of the FA Cup, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, February 13 (kick-off 7.45pm).

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