The changing face of Colchester United

Craig Eastmond

Craig Eastmond - Credit: Su Anderson

A trio of new signings arrived at Colchester United, on the morning that Joe Dunne was officially appointed U’s boss, on September 27, 2012.

The Arsenal duo of Sanchez Watt and Craig Eastmond, initially on loan, and experienced target man Jabo Ibehre swelled the numbers at the Community Stadium, and more importantly added some much needed quality to the squad.

And for the next couple of years, this quartet – three players and the manager – all played important roles in the successful quest to keep the Essex club in League One.

But so much has changed, over the last five months.

The departure of Dunne, on the last day of last August, was certainly a defining moment.

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Since then Ibehre, previously an almost permanent fixture in the team, has not made an appearance for the U’s, while winger Watt and midfielder Eastmond have struggled to hold down places in the starting XI.

And on Monday, Eastmond’s fall from grace was complete, when the ex-Arsenal 24-year-old left the club by mutual consent, on transfer deadline day, to enable him to become a free agent and so more likely to find a new club over the coming weeks.

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There’s no doubt that Eastmond, on his day, is a class act, but he has not been able to hold down a place in Tony Humes’ side, and a disappointing season had seen him drop down the pecking order of central midfielders.

With the likes of David Fox, George Moncur and Alex Gilbey all ahead of him, Eastmond then found himself by-passed by teenager Tom Lapslie in the competition for places in the middle of the park.

In the last couple of games – a 2-0 home win over Leyton Orient and a 1-1 draw at Bradford – Eastmond has not even been in the 18-man squad.

In fact, he has not made an appearance in 2015 – his last outing was the 2-1 home defeat to Gillingham on Boxing Day, when he was withdrawn at half-time.

With his opportunities strictly limited, and seemingly shrinking by the day, Eastmond has finally decided to leave the U’s, after a final round of talks with manager Humes.

In short, he was going nowhere at Colchester.

Humes confirmed: “After discussions, it was felt that it would be best for Craig to look elsewhere for first-team football, and we wish him all the best for the future.”

It was seen as a big coup, for ‘little’ Colchester to lure the Arsenal duo of Eastmond and Watt away from the Emirates. Their respective loan deals were made permanent in the summer of 2013.

But these are changing times. Humes has put the emphasis on blooding his young talent from the Academy, and is stamping his own personality on the team.

Eastmond has gone, Watt is currently warming the substitutes’ bench (though he is still very much in Humes’ thoughts) and it won’t be a big surprise if Ibehre does not play for the U’s again.

Time stands still for no one.

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