U's may avoid sales due to cup cash

COLCHESTER United's fantastic winning run might just help manager Phil Parkinson in his quest to keep his successful squad intact.The scouts have been out in force to plot the progress of the all-conquering U's, paying special attention to the likes of Greg Halford, Chris Iwelumo and Neil Danns.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United's fantastic winning run might just help manager Phil Parkinson in his quest to keep his successful squad intact.

The scouts have been out in force to plot the progress of the all-conquering U's, paying special attention to the likes of Greg Halford, Chris Iwelumo and Neil Danns.

Yet the Essex club have no desperate need to sell, because they are not in debt. Furthermore, they are generating additional cash from two fruitful cup runs.

That was summed up by Tuesday night's 1-0 victory at Cheltenham, in an LDV Vans Trophy southern area semi-final. The U's reward is a money-making two-legged regional final against fellow League One high-fliers Swansea City, with the winners guaranteed a trip to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

Furthermore, Parkinson's all-conquering squad have already banked a total of £80,000 in prize money alone for progressing through the first three rounds of the FA Cup.

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And they have the possibility of receiving another £60,000 if they can defeat Championship visitors Derby County in Saturday's sell-out fourth-round tie at Layer Road.

Parkinson was in a buoyant mood after watching his League One leaders move to within one step of the Millennium Stadium, thanks to Richard Garcia's 21st-minute strike at Cheltenham.

“Financially, this has been another big night for the club,” enthused Parkinson. “There's a week left before the transfer window closes, and I want to keep this squad together.

“We've got a lot of injuries at the moment, but I was always going to make some changes for the Cheltenham game. It's not because we were treating the LDV Trophy lightly, it's just that we needed to rest a few players.

“There isn't much to choose between those who have been in the side, and those who haven't. Many of them have been very unlucky not to be regulars. In fact, the likes of Kem Izzet, Garry Richards and George Elokobi are very hungry for success. They have fresh legs, and they want to share in the success of the team.

“They have had a chance to play in the earlier rounds of this competition, and they have showed terrific character in all three games.

“We won in extra-time against Northampton, came from behind to win at MK Dons, and I think the Cheltenham game was the most controlled performance of the lot,” added Parkinson.

Garcia's long-range rocket ensured a 17th victory from their last 19 fixtures. It is no wonder, then, that several Colchester players have been attracting the interest of bigger clubs.

These players may be in the shop window, because of the U's remarkable run of victories, but the money accumulated from these league and cup exploits might just lessen the need to sell any of them.

The U's pocketed £40,000 in prize money from their third-round FA Cup victory at Sheffield United, and there could be another pay-day this weekend, especially as Derby were thumped 6-1 at Coventry last Saturday.

In addition to the gate receipts from a capacity crowd, the U's would earn £60,000 if they could beat Derby and reach the final 16 of the FA Cup for the second time in three years. The prize money then rockets to £120,000 for any fifth-round victors.

That might persuade chairman Peter Heard to resist any offers from other clubs, like the recent interest shown by Norwich City in England under-20 international Halford.

The Canaries made an inquiry about Halford last weekend, and might consider making an offer of around £1m for the Chelmsford-born star.

Meanwhile, Parkinson was delighted with his patched-up team's victory at Cheltenham. It was especially encouraging when considered that Aidan Davison, Wayne Brown, Liam Chilvers and Kevin Watson are all facing spells on the sidelines. Their replacements all impressed on Tuesday night.

Izzet filled Watson's boots in central midfield, while Pat Baldwin and Richards formed a strong partnership at the heart of defence, and deputy keeper Dean Gerken kept a clean sheet.

Left-winger Mark Yeates will return to the side against Derby, after serving a one-match suspension, while leading scorer Iwelumo is hoping to shrug off a knee injury.

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