Ward seeks three remaining pieces to U’s jigsaw

JOHN Ward says three pieces of business will complete his Colchester United squad for next season.

JOHN Ward says three pieces of business will complete his Colchester United squad for next season.

Recently crowned Player of the Year David Perkins signed for Championship club Barnsley yesterday on a Bosman free transfer having rejected a new deal at the end of his U’s contract.

However, a replacement won’t be sought due to the fact he has five other central midfielders – John-Joe O’Toole, Andy Bond, Kemi Izzet, Lloyd James and Jordan Sanderson – at the club.

Instead he will put all his energies into signing two new strikers to bolster a thin on the ground front line and persuading versatile midfielder Ian Henderson from also leaving on a free transfer.

The U’s boss is due to meet the latter tomorrow for a final round of contract talks, the duo having returned from holidays in Portugal and Las Vegas respectively this week.

“If I can get Ian to sign then I don’t think we will need much more movement in the transfer market,” said Ward, speaking exclusively to the EADT. “We’ve got lots of competition in midfield so I won’t be looking for a replacement for David.

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“I’ve spoken to a couple of strikers that are available on free transfers, but I’m not naive enough to think that we are the only ones speaking to them.”

The U’s currently have just two senior strikers on their books in Steven Gillespie and Kayode Odejayi, with academy teenager Craig Arnott having just signed a professional contract.

David Mooney ended the season as the club’s top-scorer following a loan spell from Reading and is now a free agent having being released by the Championship club. Ward says he will speak to the Irishman about returning to The Weston Homes Community Stadium, but revealed he isn’t one of the two players he is currently in contact with.

Kevin Lisbie – a favourite at the U’s during two previous spells – could be a candidate having been released by Ipswich Town this summer, while Ashley Grimes – who has been released by Millwall – has also been linked.

“If we can get two new strikers then I’d be delighted, but if we only end up getting one then it wouldn’t be the end of the world because Ian (Henderson) can play there, if he signs, and so can Ashley Vincent,” said Ward, who has already bolstered his defence with the free transfer additions of Michael Rose (Swindon) and Tom Eastman (Ipswich).

“I’m happy with the work we’ve done so far and while I’d like to strengthen the forward position quickly, we might have to be patient. If it comes down to loan deals that might not happen until August.”

Reflecting on Perkins’ decision to leave the club – the 28-year-old set to play in the Championship for the first time in his career – Ward said: “David was terrific for me last season and now he’s been given an opportunity to play higher. That’s how football works and I’m pleased for him. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”

The Lancashire-born player has signed a two-year deal at the Yorkshire club and links back up with his former Rochdale manager Keith Hill who has just taken over at the Tykes.

It completes a remarkable turnaround for him considering this time last year he had just completed loan spells at League Two clubs Chesterfield and Stockport.


OUT: David Perkins (Barnsley, free), David Mooney (loan expired), Nathan Clarke (loan expired), Tommy Smith (loan expired), Lee Beevers (released), Conor Powell (released), Morten Knudsen (released), Simon Hackney (released), Medy Elito (released), Sam Corcoran (released).

IN: Tom Eastman (free, Ipswich), Michael Rose (free, Swindon), Bradley Hamilton, Jordan Sanderson, Craig Arnott (promoted from academy).

NEW CONTRACTS: Steven Gillespie, Andy Bond, John White, Matt Heath, Mark Cousins, Carl Pentney.



Goalkeepers: Williams, Cousins, Pentney

Defenders: Wilson, White, Okuonghae, Baldwin, Heath, Eastman, Coker, Rose, Bender, Hamilton.

Midfielders: Izzet, James, O’Toole, Bond, Sanderson, Vincent, Wordsworth.

Strikers: Gillespie, Odejayi, Arnott.