Ward keeps an eye on Premier League

COLCHESTER United manager John Ward’s striker search could take him to the Premier League following the implementation of the new 25-man squad rule.

The U’s are currently heading into the new campaign decidedly light in the forward department following this week’s departure of target man Clive Platt to Coventry City and their inability to get last season’s top scorer Kevin Lisbie back in on loan.

And with �125,000 French flop Joel Thomas not even invited to join the official squad photo yesterday, that effectively leaves Ward with just two out-and-out strikers at his disposal in the form of Kayode Odejayi and Steven Gillespie.

The U’s boss admits the protracted nature of Platt’s departure means he has already missed out on one or two prospective targets ahead of the club’s League One opener at Exeter a week tomorrow.

However, he remains relaxed about the situation and believes the club could well capitalise on the Football Association’s new set of rules once the season gets under way.

The 2010/11 season will be the first time that all Premier League and Football League clubs must register a squad of 25 players.

Each club’s list, which must be submitted by September 1 (end of the transfer window), does not have to include players aged under 21 or loanees.

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It must, however, contain at least eight ‘homegrown’ players; the definition of which is those that have spent a minimum of three years registered at an English or Welsh club before the age of 21.

“I went to a managers’ meeting a few weeks ago and I think that most Football League clubs will cope with the new rules pretty well,” said Ward.

“Some of the big boys in the Premier League might find it a bit more difficult though and that is something for us in the Football League to look at.

“There are some good young players around second team level (in the Premier League) that could be available. Loan moves like that would help us, the player and their club, so we’ll have to keep an eye on that.”

Ward’s forays into the transfer market so far has seen him sign two from non-league and snap up another two on free transfers following their release by Football League clubs.

And the U’s boss, who has had to get his bloated squad and wage bill down this summer, says he will continue to look down that route too.

“We will keep looking at free transfers,” said Ward. “I’ve got a good scouting unit and lots of contacts in the game.

“There are a lot of good players still out there at the moment without doubt. Football clubs are having to be more frugal and I think a lot of good players are going to find themselves out of work over the coming months.”

He added: “I don’t think we need to rush into finding a replacement (for Platt) – it needs to be given some thought. I’m scouring the papers and talking to my scouts and, although nothing is imminent, we are on top of the situation.

“I have some ideas about what I would like to do. Whether it is a loan or a permanent signings I am yet to decide.”

Meanwhile, Ward refused to comment on speculation that free-scoring York City striker Richard Brodie – who he watched in the Blue Square Premier play-off last May – is on his radar.

He said: “I never talk about players that are contracted to other clubs, so I’m not going to get involved in who it may or may not be that I’m looking at because I think that’s wrong.”

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