U’s have 16 players out of contract this summer

COLCHESTER United boss John Ward has some tough decisions to make, over the coming weeks and months, in terms of contracts.

More than half the U’s senior squad are out of contract at the end of this season, with 16 players having deals that expire this summer.

That group includes a number of United’s most experienced players, including Kem Izzet, Kayode Odejayi, Magnus Okuonghae, John-Joe O’Toole and Matt Heath.

It promises to be a juggling act for the U’s boss, whose budget for players’ wages will be cut due to the new rules coming into force for next season. These will restrict League One clubs to spending a maximum 60% of their income on players’ salaries.

In recent years, owner and chairman Robbie Cowling has swelled the U’s coffers with cash that he has put in, over and above the income received from gate receipts and other sources of revenue.

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But with the U’s average attendance for this year currently standing at just 3,768, money on players’ wages will be squeezed for 2012-13.

Ward took the decision to wait until after the end of January, and the closure of the transfer window (for permanents signings), before turning his full attention to the contracts issue.

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He felt it important to see where his squad stood, in terms of personnel, in case any of his prize assets were to leave last month – the club turned down an offer from Bournemouth for leading scorer Anthony Wordsworth, while speculation surrounding possible moves for striker Odejayi and defender Okuonghae were never confirmed.

Pat Baldwin, one of the U’s out-of-contract players this summer, did move on to Essex rivals Southend United, although the list has been restored to 16 by new recruit Martin Rowlands’ short-term arrival from previous club QPR.

Ward explained: “We’ve already discussed one or two things. Robbie and myself have had meetings about it,” explained Ward.

“We are very much aware of the group of players who are out of contract. We start discussing that over the next couple of weeks.”

It seems likely that most new contracts offered will be year-long deals, although Ward insisted: “The length of any contract will depend on the player.”

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