The big interview: Colchester United’s Doug Loft

Doug Loft, in training on Friday

Doug Loft, in training on Friday - Credit: Archant

Doug Loft was desperate for a “fresh start,” after such a frustrating last season at Gillingham.

Doug Loft fires home a dramatic injury-time equaliser for Gillingham against Colchester in a 2-2 dra

Doug Loft fires home a dramatic injury-time equaliser for Gillingham against Colchester in a 2-2 draw at Priestfield in 2015 - Credit: Richard Blaxall/Focus Images Ltd

And the 29-year-old has secured just that, by signing for League Two outfit Colchester United on a two-year deal on Friday.

Midfielder Loft therefore becomes the fifth player to be signed by the U’s, within the last four days, following in the footsteps of striker Denny Johnstone, left-sided specialist Brennan Dickenson and youngsters Courtney Senior and Dexter Peter.

“I’m really buzzing. It’s a fresh start for me, just as it is a fresh start for Colchester,” explained Loft.

“I always wanted a fresh start this year, after what happened last season. I had a couple of injuries, but they are all healed now, and I am raring to go.

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“To be truthful, I didn’t really enjoy last season, but I spoke to Colchester United following the end of the campaign, and I was really impressed with that they had to say.

“There have been lot of players leave, and a lot of players come in, so these are exciting times at Colchester United, especially with a few more additions hopefully to come.

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“It’s a very young squad, but then most squads at clubs these days tend to be young.

“I know a couple of the lads who have just signed, Luke (Prosser) and Brennan (Dickenson), and it’s a big season for them as well.

“I think we should do well in League Two,” added Loft.

New arrival Loft has been a versatile player throughout his career, playing wing-back and full-back in addition to midfield, but it is in central midfield where he is set to operate for the U’s during 2016-17, and beyond.

“Midfield will be my position,” confirmed Loft.

“At 29, I’m an experienced player who should be able to help out a few of the younger lads.”

U’s supporters will certainly be no strangers to Loft, who has scored against their team on more than one occasion.

He netted a brace in Port Vale’s 2-0 home win over the U’s, in February, 2014, and scored a dramatic injury-time equaliser for hosts Gillingham in a 2-2 draw against Tony Humes’ men in March, 2015.

Chris Porter had headed the U’s into a 2-1 lead that day, on 87 minutes, only for Loft to crash home a leveller in the sixth minute of injury-time.

After that game, boss Humes admitted: “It feels like a defeat.”

More than a year on and new recruit Loft admitted: “I suppose I owe Colchester a few goals now!”

Maidstone-born Loft, a former England Schoolboy, was plucked out of non-league in 2006 while playing for Hastings United.

Brighton boss, Mark McGhee, took a chance on him and he stayed with the Seagulls for three seasons, making 39 league appearances without ever really establishing himself as a first-team regular.

He moved on to Port Vale in 2009, under former Colchester United assistant manager, Micky Adams, and it was at Vale Park where he really blossomed as an attacking midfielder.

Loft went on to rattle up 174 league appearances for the Valiants, scoring 18 goals, until his departure in 2014.

He was named player-of-the-year in 2011-12, and was installed as club captain for the following season, at the end of which Port Vale clinched promotion to League One by finishing in third spot.

Then-Gillingham boss, Peter Taylor, lured him to Priestfield in the summer of 2014. Loft went on to play 62 league games for the Gills over two years, although injuries restricted him to just 29 first-team outings last term.

The midfield trio of Alex Gilbey (to Wigan), George Moncur (to Barnsley) and Joe Edwards (to Walsall) have all left the U’s this summer, so fresh blood was needed for the centre of the park, with Loft likely to fill that void for new manager John McGreal.

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