U's squad is stronger - Cowling

ROBBIE Cowling believes that Colchester United's squad for the new season is stronger than last year.

ROBBIE Cowling believes that Colchester United's squad for the new season is stronger than last year.

However, the U's owner and chairman also admitted that League One looks like being even more competitive than 12 months ago.

Cowling has supported his manager, Paul Lambert, by giving him the financial backing to recruit eight new players over the summer.

Others have left, including the experienced trio of winger Mark Yeates, keeper Dean Gerken and club captain Chris Coyne, while Johnnie Jackson is also keen to depart, but overall the squad appears to have more strength in depth.

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“I think we have a good chance of being successful this season,” insisted Cowling.

“The manager has brought in players, and has strengthened the front-line with the arrival of Kevin Lisbie. He also did not get the best out of Steven Gillespie last season, so hopefully that will also change.

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“We also have a midfielder who can put his foot on the ball (summer signing David Fox), and the defence also looks more solid.

“That's why I think the squad is stronger than last year, both at the front and at the back.

“However, on the other side of the coin, the division also looks very strong. At least we have a year's experience of playing at this level, and the big clubs coming down won't necessarily all do well,” added Cowling.

The eight new recruits - Ben Williams, Lee Beevers, Magnus Okuonghae, David Fox, Ashley Vincent (originally on loan), Gary Holt (player-coach), Joel Thomas and Lisbie - only tell half the story of a busy close season.

Lambert tried to recruit at least seven different strikers, before finally landing Lisbie on a season-long loan from Ipswich at the start of this week.

Cowling revealed: “Paul Lambert and his coaching team were quick to organise who they wanted, but so many negotiations ended in nothing, especially with regards strikers.

“Ironically, though, I think we have ended up with the best striker that we could have got (Lisbie). You just have to keep working on these deals.

“You also have to be able to respond quickly to any player that might suddenly become available, as was the case with Kevin Lisbie. We were able to react quickly to that.

“There's been a “wow” factor with this last signing. Fans know how well Kevin (Lisbie) did for us last time (17 goals in 2007-08), and he left on good terms. He's a good professional.

“We were disappointed to miss out on Richard Offiong (Hamilton Academical striker), but I think we have ended up with an even better one. Kevin wasn't on our original list, simply because we didn't think he would be available.

“I have tried to back the manager with the players that he has wanted. The squad is a little too big, so a few more might move out. Some want to move on, and that might happen over the next few weeks,” added Cowling.

The U's will be hoping for a better second season at their new Weston Homes Community Stadium, after their first campaign yielded just seven wins from 24 league and cup games on home turf.

“We have learned a lot from that first season,” explained Cowling.

“Of course I'd always like us to sell more season tickets - we have sold about the same as last year (approximately 1,600) - but many people prefer to go to about six games during the season.

“I think it's also been a good idea to get our home fans in the South Stand (away supporters were accommodated here last season). The noise travels much better from there.

“And the pitch also looks a lot better,” concluded Cowling.

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