U's face task of keeping squad together

COLCHESTER United manager Geraint Williams now faces the task of trying the keep the nucleus of his squad together, following Tuesday night's confirmation of their relegation to League One.

Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United manager Geraint Williams now faces the task of trying the keep the nucleus of his squad together, following Tuesday night's confirmation of their relegation to League One.

Williams had to cope with a mass exodus of players last summer, despite the U's finishing in a club record position of 10th in the Championship.

Most of the U's current playing staff are on extended contracts, but there must still be fears that a few of them might be on their way.

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Leading marksman Kevin Lisbie is a case in point. Since signing from Charlton over the summer, front-runner Lisbie has plundered 16 goals, an impressive haul in a relegated side.

Whether the 29-year-old would be prepared to drop into League One next season, when he has proved that he can score goals at a healthy rate in the Championship, remains open to question.

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Lisbie himself has not yet stated any desire to leave Colchester. The fact that he has been playing regular football, after years of being on the fringe of the Charlton team, might work in the U's favour.

Keeper Dean Gerken is another who might fancy his chances of playing at a higher level, especially as he has been linked with a move to West Ham.

Williams said: “We will have to look at the size of the squad for next season, and see if it will be any smaller. Summers are always busy with transfers, and I'm sure that other clubs will be trying to cherry pick off us.

“We don't have too many players out of contract who are currently in the first team.

“The chairman (Robbie Cowling) and I wanted to make sure of that.

“It's well documented that Kevin (Lisbie) did not play enough games while he was at Charlton. He's come here and done very well, scoring lots of goals.

“Kevin is a very level-headed lad, but that's not to say he isn't ambitious. We've got to show as a club that we match his ambitions.

“I'd obviously like to keep the squad together for next season. It's encouraging to hear players come out and say that they want to stay at the club, but actions speak louder than words.

“Of course money always has a final say in things. The players have their families to think of, as do I and everyone else. They have to do the best by them,” added Williams.

The U's boss also reflected on his side's season as a whole, which has been dogged by a leaky defence and a spate of injuries.

The team has conceded 76 goals in 42 matches, and only kept its second clean-sheet of the campaign in last Saturday's 2-0 win over Ipswich. Furthermore, long term injuries to Mark Yeates, Teddy Sheringham, Kevin Watson and Pat Baldwin have not helped matters.

Williams explained: “We basically have not won enough games during the season. Some teams have a problem scoring goals, but our problem has been conceding too many. We have not done enough over the whole 46 games.

“I accept, of course, that it would have been terrible for the fans if it had been Ipswich who had relegated us last week. But the timing of relegation doesn't really matter.

“There are always a number of turning points that you can look to in a season, like the away defeat at Ipswich (3-1 on October 23) when we conceded three late goals, That can knock confidence, as did losing the next game at Coventry City (1-0) to a late goal.

“But then we went out and won at Charlton (2-1 on New Year's Day), and drew 1-1 at Bristol City, and suddenly you think that we have turned the corner.

“Our home form has let us down, and we haven't had much luck, especially with injuries, but you can't just blame that.

“We don't want to finish bottom, and there are still four games left.

“There is a lot of pride to play for, and we owe it to ourselves and our fans to put in four good performances, and hopefully four wins,” concluded Williams.

The U's travel to third-from-bottom Leicester City tomorrow.

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