U's worst fears are realised

COLCHESTER United's worst fears were realised last night when star man Jamie Cureton finalised his move from Layer Road to Norwich City for an undisclosed fee.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United's worst fears were realised last night when star man Jamie Cureton finalised his move from Layer Road to Norwich City for an undisclosed fee.

The break-up of the prolific Chris Iwelumo/Cureton partnership is therefore complete, with the dynamic duo going their separate ways, to Charlton and Norwich respectively.

It means that manager Geraint Williams now faces a daunting task to replace his two main strikers, who plundered a remarkable 42 goals between them last season.

When Cureton slapped in a transfer request earlier this month, his wish was always to return to his first love of Norwich.

It was where he began his career, although he never really established himself in the Canaries first team - he left in 1996, having managed just six goals in 32 appearances.

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United turned down his transfer request, after the 31-year-old lifted the Championship's Golden Boot with 24 goals last term.

But by then the player had already accused the U's of “lacking ambition,” and had been dismayed to see the break-up of his fruitful partnership with Iwelumo.

“I'm delighted with the move back to Norwich,” admitted Cureton on the Norfolk club's website. “There's been a lot of speculation and other clubs have been interested, but it was always Norwich that I wanted to come back to. I managed to finish as top scorer in the Championship last season, and that's what I've got to be aiming for again at Norwich.”

The Canaries lost their own star striker, Robert Earnshaw, in a £3.5m move to Premiership newcomers Derby County yesterday, and manager Peter Grant also failed in attempts to lure Scunthorpe goal-poacher Billy Sharp to Carrow Road. Sharp is considering a move to Sheffield United instead.

However, Grant acted quickly to purchase Cureton as a new attacking weapon for the 2007-08 campaign.

Even though the U's had initially turned down his transfer request, the Bristol-born attacker was always adamant that he had already played his last game for the U's.

He believed that the Essex club had put a price tag of £750,000 on his head, which was three times more than Hull City's early offer of £250,000.

Even though he was keen to find a more lucrative deal elsewhere, Cureton admitted that he felt sad to be leaving Layer Road.

Speaking to the EADT Cureton revealed: “I've really enjoyed the last year at Colchester, and in a way it's disappointing that it's come to this. I've been very happy at Colchester, and if I was 21, rather than 31, then I wouldn't be wanting to leave.”

Cureton's transfer to Norwich last night is only the latest in a series of knockbacks that U's fans have had to endure this summer.

In addition to the departures of Iwelumo and Cureton, assistant manager Mick Harford and loanee left-back Chris Barker have both moved to QPR, and Richard Garcia is set to leave when his contract expires this weekend. So far, the U's have had two bids for QPR target man Roy Jones turned down, while Clive Platt of MK Dons is considering a £300,000 move.

Meanwhile, Ipswich Town skills coach Steve Foley has ruled himself out of the running to become Colchester United's new assistant manager, following Harford's move to QPR. Foley is a former U's player, coach and caretaker manager.

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