Split loyalties for some of Dunne’s friends

Joe Dunne

Joe Dunne - Credit: Archant

Colchester United boss, Joe Dunne, only played for two Football League clubs during his days as a robust full-back – the U’s and Gillingham.

Dunne, who celebrated his 40th birthday this summer, began his professional career at Gillingham and went on to rattle up 115 league appearances for the Kent club.

A successful switch, across the River Thames and into Essex, saw him enjoy a productive second half of his playing career at Colchester, from 1996.

No wonder, then, that Dunne has many friends and several family members who will have split loyalties when the Gills host the U’s in a League One opener at Priestfield his weekend.

“I suppose you can say there will be some split loyalties,” admitted Dunne, who made close to 200 senior appearances for the U’s between 1996 and 2001.

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“Gillingham gave me my first chance, as a professional footballer, and I have a lot of friends who are season ticket holders at Gillingham.

“It is another club very dear to me, whom I respect. In fact, Gillingham and Colchester are very similar sized clubs.

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“Both chased the dream of the Championship, and both have seen improvements to their ground in recent years.

“Both will now be looking to get back into Championship again,” added Dunne.

While the U’s enjoyed two seasons in the Championship, from 2006 to ‘08, their only spell at this level in the club’s history, Gillingham had earlier graced the second tier for five years (2000-05), again their only ever stay in this division.

And whereas the U’s moved to a spanking new stadium – the Weston Homes Community Stadium – from their old Layer Road in 2008, Gillingham have chosen to redevelop their Priestfield Stadium, while also harbouring hopes of moving to a new ground.

Since current owner, Paul Scally, took over the Kent club in 1995, all four sides of the ground have been redeveloped – the Gills have been at Priestfield throughout their existence, since their formation in 1893.

Back to the present and Dunne revealed that he had no injury concerns, ahead of Saturday’s big kick-off.

Pre-season has not been without its injury worries – centre-half Josh Thompson, midfielder Craig Eastmond and winger Sanchez Watt have all been in the treatment room.

But all three should be fighting fit, together with the rest of the squad, as the U’s begin their sixth successive season in League One.

Eastmond looked set to miss the start of the season, after being stretchered off with an ankle injury during the first half of the first pre-season fixture, at Heybridge Swifts, but has since made a rapid recovery.

Thompson likewise battled back from a training injury, and Watt is hopeful of being passed fit for Gillingham despite hobbling off at Maldon & Tiptree last Saturday.

Dunne said: “Sanchez Watt did not train on Monday, but I think he will be fine. We took him off as a precaution, and have since been monitoring him.

“In fact, the whole training group is fit and healthy.”

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