U's beat deadline to sign Hammond

COLCHESTER United boosted their chances of beating the drop by signing Brighton skipper, Dean Hammond, before tonight's transfer deadline.

Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United boosted their chances of beating the drop by signing Brighton skipper, Dean Hammond, before tonight's transfer deadline.

The U's increased their bid for the 24-year-old midfielder, from £200,000 to £250,000, to finally land their target.

Manager Geraint Williams was keen to add to his options in central midfield, having bolstered his defence with the purchase of centre-half Chris Coyne and full-back Phil Ifil earlier in the month.

U's manager Geraint Williams said: "Dean (Hammond) is just the sort of character that we need at the club.

"He's a real leader. He's only 24, but he's got bags of experience and his form at Brighton benefited from him being skipper.

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"He's at an age where he can do a job for us now, and can still improve with us. We saw Dean play down at Brighton several times. He can operate anywhere across the midfield. He's been scoring several goals as an attacking midfielder, but can also play at the base of a diamond formation," added Williams.

Hammond enjoyed his first taste of skippering the Seagulls last season, following injuries to Richard Carpenter and Charlie Oatway.

And when Carpenter left the Withdean Stadium a year ago, Hammond became the official club captain.

He embraced his new role with open arms, and his form certainly benefited. In fact, he was voted the runaway "Player-of-the-Season" by Brighton fans, ending the campaign as the leading scorer with eight league goals.

With cup goals taken into account, he was the first Seagulls midfielder to reach double figures in all competitions for 16 years.

Hammond's contract at Brighton was set to expire this summer, and he had already turned down the offer of a new deal, so the Sussex club were resigned to letting him go.

Meanwhile, former U's star Greg Halford has signed on loan for Charlton from Premier League outfit Sunderland until the end of the season. Halford will therefore be reunited with his former Colchester boss, Phil Parkinson, who is the assistant manager at The Valley.

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