U's smash record in double swoop

COLCHESTER United last night smashed their club record transfer fee by snapping up goal-poacher Steven Gillespie from Cheltenham Town.And they quickly made it a double swoop by also signing tough-tackling midfielder David Perkins for an undisclosed six-figure fee from Rochdale.

Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United last night smashed their club record transfer fee by snapping up goal-poacher Steven Gillespie from Cheltenham Town.

And they quickly made it a double swoop by also signing tough-tackling midfielder David Perkins for an undisclosed six-figure fee from Rochdale.

The highly-rated Gillespie, who almost singly-handedly kept the Robins in League One last season with 16 goals, has signed for the U's in a deal worth in excess of £400,000.


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Livewire striker Gillespie slapped in a written transfer request last week, after news broke that the U's had lodged a bid of £400,000 for the former Liverpool trainee. That initial bid was rejected, but United have been successful with a second improved offer.

The U's finally got their man last night, with Gillespie passing a medical in Leicester. He has already joined up with his new team-mates, who are currently being put through their paces on a week-long fitness programme at Loughborough University.

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U's boss Geraint Williams said: “Steven (Gillespie) is someone we had been looking at for a while. We saw him play for Cheltenham against Brighton last year.

“He started out at Liverpool, which shows his pedigree, and moved onto Bristol City as a young man. He scored a lot of goals last season, and is a very bright and intelligent footballer. He also has the pace to get behind defenders.

“Steven will hopefully hit the ground running, although we are also hoping that he will improve with us.

“We have lost more players than we have signed since last season, and I'm still in the market for the right type of player. However, the squad was a bit too big last year, so we have needed to thin it out,” added Williams.

Gillespie, 24, joined Cheltenham at the beginning of 2006, after two earlier loan stints from Bristol City. He had originally moved from Anfield to Ashton Gate without making a first-team appearance for Liverpool. Bristol City are in fact entitled to 20% of the Colchester fee due to a sell-on clause from his move to Whaddon Road.

“It has been going on for a while after the first bids were made and, although a couple of other clubs were after me, Colchester made me feel wanted,” confirmed Gillespie.

“They showed that they are really keen to sign me. The club wants to get back in the Championship, and that's where I want to be playing my football.”

Gillespie's arrival eclipses the previous club record transfer fee, which was the £350,000 paid to Luton Town for defender Chris Coyne in January. Cheltenham chairman, Paul Baker, was satisfied with the deal. He said: “The fee is a significant improvement on previous offers, and will enable us to reinvest in a replacement.

“Overall, we are glad to have brought the matter to a close as the uncertainty was affecting manager Keith Downing's preparations.”

Gillespie was the U's fourth new signing of the summer, following the arrival of defenders Matt Heath (from Leeds), Matt Lockwood (from Nottingham Forest) and Paul Reid (from Barnsley), but it did not take long for Williams to secure his fifth new recruit.

Heysham-born Perkins, who made almost 200 appearances for his first club Morecambe in the Conference (Blue Square Premier), signed for Rochdale in January of last year.

The 26-year-old, who captained the England non-league side, went on to star in Dale's central midfield last season. Now he has completed a move to the U's new Weston Homes Community Stadium, choosing the Essex club rather than Stockport County, who were also interested in signing him.

Perkins will have to wait to make his U's debut because he will be suspended for the first four matches of the season as punishment for being sent off in the League Two play-off semi-final against Darlington. Rochdale's appeal against the red card was quashed.

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