Williams hails Vine

COLCHESTER United might not be able to compete in the transfer market with the likes of Birmingham and Derby, but they have had a knack of finding some bargains over the last few years.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United might not be able to compete in the transfer market with the likes of Birmingham and Derby, but they have had a knack of finding some bargains over the last few years.

And that was certainly the case with Rowan Vine, who played for the U's as a loanee during the whole of the 2003-04 season. Yesterday, Vine was preparing to move from Luton Town to Championship leaders Birmingham for a fee that could rise to £3m.

The 24-year-old front-runner, who was recruited by the U's on loan from Portsmouth, scored 12 goals in 49 appearances during his season-long stay at Layer Road.


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He went on to spearhead Luton's front-line, after the Hatters paid £250,000 for his services from Pompey, and is now set to move to Steve Bruce's promotion-chasing side at Birmingham.

Vine has plundered 14 goals this season. Bruce made a revised bid of £2.5m yesterday, and that figure will rise to £3m if the Midlanders clinch promotion to the Premiership.

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By contrast, the U's record transfer fee paid remains at just £50,000 - for Neil Gregory from Ipswich, a fee that was matched by Adrian Coote from Norwich.

There has been no move in the transfer market, either in or out, regarding Colchester this week, despite the increased speculation in U's right-back Greg Halford. But manager Geraint Williams followed Vine's high-profile move with interest yesterday.

“For us to compete with a club like Birmingham would be suicide,” admitted Williams last night.

“Teams like Derby and Birmingham, who are able to fill 20,000 or 30,000-seater stadiums, can afford to buy in players for inflated prices. They are making a big push for promotion.

“But we have to take them early, which is why we go to lots and lots of games, to discover the good young players before they become the finished article.

“That was the case with Rowan (Vine). We discovered him early, and got a good year out of him. It worked well for Rowan as well, because he scored some goals and earned himself some recognition.

“We have tried to do that this season as well, by bringing in youngsters on loan such as Ritchie Jones (from Manchester United) and Hogan Ephraim (from West Ham).

“We can't go out and make £3m bids for players, let along pay their wages, which is what we are up against, but I think that some of these fees are a bit over the top anywhere,” insisted Williams.

Second-placed Derby have already snapped up four high-profile players since the transfer window reopened at the start of this month.

Rams boss Billy Davies yesterday completed the signing of midfielder Gary Teale from Wigan for £600,000. He has already bought former Colchester star Craig Fagan from Hull City (£750,000), talented youngster Dave Jones from Manchester United (£1m) and Celtic's Stephen Pearson for £750,000.

The U's boss said of the transfer situation: “I have heard of no bids concerning our players. I have made inquiries about players, and made phone calls, but they have been turned down.”

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