White and Cousins set to stay with U’s

John White

John White

COLCHESTER United have offered new contracts to two of the club’s stalwarts, John White and Mark Cousins.

But Matt Heath, whose current contract also expires this summer, has not been offered a new deal.

Versatile defender White and keeper Cousins, both former products of the U’s youth team, have been regulars in the senior squad in recent seasons.

They experienced contrasting fortunes this season – White played a key role in helping the U’s to preserve their League One status, during the closing weeks, while Cousins made all of his appearances in the first half of the campaign.

Manager Joe Dunne explained: “John and Mark are two players I would like to keep.

“I have made contact with their agents, expressed our wish to retain the pair, and put contract offers in front of them.”

Loyal servant White, a specialist right-back who has also operated as a left-back and centre-half in recent weeks, joined the club at the tender age of 11.

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Now 26, White has rattled up 227 league appearances for the U’s.

Cousins, also 26, has so far totalled 70 senior outings, 58 in the league. The Chelmsford custodian played 26 times during the most recent campaign, but his last game was back on January 12, a 2-1 home defeat by Scunthorpe, which was the U’s ninth defeat on the trot.

He lost his place to Chelsea loanee Sam Walker, who played the remaining 19 games of the season.

Meanwhile, Dunne revealed earlier this week that he would be working on a reduced budget for the 2013-14 season.

“My budget has been cut,” confirmed the U’s boss, following meetings with club chairman Robbie Cowling.

But many other League One clubs will also be faced with similar reduced wage bills, and Dunne is certainly relishing the challenge ahead.

The Dubliner said: “I will have to look closely at where I’m spending, in terms of building a squad for next season, because of the reductions, but that’s a challenge I fully understand and one that I’ll get on with.”

One of the casualties is experienced centre-half Heath, who will leave the U’s this summer after a five-year stay at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

A reflective Heath commented: “Of course I’m disappointed, but it obviously didn’t come as a bolt out of the blue because I hadn’t been playing.

“These things happen to players all the time and I’m looking forward to my next challenge, wherever and whenever it might be.”

Ex-Leeds and Leicester City defender Heath had been well down the pecking order of centre-halves, below the likes of Magnus Okuonghae, Tom Eastman, Josh Thompson and White.

Dunne will again be hoping to use the loan market shrewdly next season, and has made no secret of the fact that he would like first choice keeper Walker to return to the club from Chelsea for another loan spell. Walker has also suggested that a return could be on the cards.

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