U’s average age of just 22

U's teenager Macauley Bonne, in action against Peterborough

U's teenager Macauley Bonne, in action against Peterborough - Credit: Archant

The Colchester United XI which was on the pitch at the end of last weekend’s 1-0 win over Peterborough was one of the youngest teams ever to appear for the U’s in a league game.

And that youthful trend is set to continue at Rotherham tomorrow.

Teenagers Macauley Bonne, Sammie Szmodics and Alex Gilbey all played vital roles in the U’s first victory in 12 games.

In fact, the average age of the U’s XI, at the final whistle, was just over 22, with three 18-year-olds plus a 20 and 21-year-old in the line-up.

Futhermore, two other academy products, Mason Spence (18) and Freddie Ladapo (20), were among the unused substitutes.

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The youthful make-up of the U’s team certainly made manager Joe Dunne a very proud man last weekend, and was another glimpse of what the future holds for the Essex club.

“It’s all right talking about stuff. You can talk as much as you want, but at some stage you’ve got to do it,” insisted Dunne.

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“Even when John (Ward) was here, we talked about the importance of how the future of the club would go.

“I think sometimes when you are constantly saying that, people think – ‘oh well, we’re all right, we will sign new players.’

“But people are starting to come to their senses, realising that what we have been saying for the last few seasons, especially this season and last season, is actually true. This is how we are going to go about it.

“Against Peterborough, Macca (Maculey Bonne) scored, Sammie (Szmodics) was on, and Alex (Gilbey) has been playing regularly, in three or four different positions. That is the future of the club, and there’s one or two more (youngsters) to come in as well.

“So it’s not just for show, it is real! It’s good and it’s exciting.

“We are working with it every day, and I was pleased that we got to show-case it against Peterborough.

“They are quality players, not just poly-fillers! And they are ours.

“They are home grown and we should be delighted.”

U’s boss Dunne, and owner and chairman Robbie Cowling, have insisted over the last year or so that the blueprint for future U’s teams will be based around a majority number of academy players,

The current injury crisis at the Community Stadium has been a major reason for the influx of youngsters into the U’s senior team in recent weeks.

But that is the long-term direction for a club whose limited income, and small budget for players’ wages, means that producing home-grown talent will take precedence over dipping into the transfer market.

Several of the U’s young guns are again expected to figure at Rotherham tomorrow, as injuries will again rule out a number of experienced regulars, including Jabo Ibehre, Sanchez Watt, Drey Wright, David Wright, Freddie Sears and Josh Thompson.

Meanwhile, defender Daniel Pappoe yesterday returned to Chelsea, after his loan stay was cut short by injury. Pappoe made just two brief substitute appearances for the U’s, and was sent off on his debut in the 2-2 draw at Bradford.

Finally, the U’s have been drawn at home to Billericay in the fourth round of the Essex Senior Cup.

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