Colchester United F.C – Opinions on a predicted starting eleven, from a fan.
Signed in the summer on a free from Liverpool. Started the season as backup keeper but due to injuries to the experienced Dean Gerken he has stepped in and impressed and looks like he could be number one for the rest of this season at least. His distribution is excellent but like most keepers at this level, has a mistake in him. He has saved us many times, both from embarrassment in games we have lost and from dropping points in the (very few) games we have won or drawn recently.
Signed on a free from Macclesfield a year ago, Miles Welch-Hayes has been a solid replacement for Ryan Jackson who left for Gillingham last summer. He’s much better defensively than going forward, which means when the U’s have switched to a 3 at the back then teenager Junior Tchamadeu has been played instead.
Recently reaching 400 appearances for Colchester United, Tom Eastman is surely now considered a legend for the club and by the end of this season should enter the top 10 appearances of all time for the club. He’s been a consistently good performer, even in several difficult seasons for the club over the last decade. As long as he isn’t injured, he is probably the first name on the team sheet. Known for his accurate long diagonal passes up the field and dominant in the air.
Probably considered an underwhelming summer signing from Ipswich, the experienced New Zealand international had tough shoes to fill for departing club captain Luke Prosser. Likely to continue to start games however, simply because there is only one other senior centre back at the club – Omar Sowunmi – who has also failed to impress since signing two years ago. Decent in the air, but is probably beaten too easily 1v1 at times and if the opponent has pace then there’s only one winner in the race.
One of the fan favourites and many academy products in the squad, Ryan has finally got a decent run in the team following the departure of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln City in January. He has proven to be good both defensively and going forward and the fans are very happy to see him get in the team consistently after being second choice for a few years now. Can put in a good cross too, which might be used more than usual in this game with winger Callum Harriott out on international duty right now.
The club captain and very passionate. Disliked by many opposition fans, but he’s one of those you love to have in your team and something that we have missed in the past and don’t have much of in our youthful squad. His performances have arguably declined alongside the team over the last 8 months, but he is the kind of player we desperately need in the difficult situation we find ourselves in. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Ben Stevenson or Noah Chilvers started in his place, who are much more creative and attack minded, but it’s difficult to see Wayne Brown drop the captain and someone who is very committed.
Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu has been fantastic since he returned permanently from Charlton in January. Able to play at right back, defensive midfield or even on the wing, he looks really committed and has been man of the match in several games recently – a photo taken after the Harrogate defeat a couple of weeks ago showed him looking absolutely devastated on the pitch all by himself minutes after the final whistle sums the team up right now, but also his character and that the fans believe he is one of the players that genuinely care about where we are. The only problem is Charlton reportedly have a buy back clause!
Since arriving from Wycombe a couple of years ago, winger Paris Cowan-Hall has really struggled with injuries. He was also on the verge of leaving in January but the move broke down and pretty much everyone did not expect to see him in a ColU shirt again. But he’s recently got a chance in the team under new interim head coach Wayne Brown and has done pretty well. Even at 30 years old, he still has a good amount of pace and despite looking promising, he will probably leave in the summer due to his age. It’s tough to go into detail about someone who has played just 15 times in the league in 2 years – and 3 of those appearances have come in the last 4 games.
A big money signing from Cambridge in the summer of 2019 to replace Sammie Szmodics. His first 12 months were quite a disaster, falling out with people, being loaned out and looking like he might move on quickly. But this season he has looked much better. Started out of position at striker and was labelled the best finisher at the club by former head coach Steve Ball, but has been played in his natural attacking midfield role under Wayne Brown recently in various formations. He had a sensational November picking up Player Of The Month for League Two but hasn’t reached those levels since. Will probably start at attacking midfield in the club’s favourite 4-2-3-1, but could be up front instead in a 4-4-2 or could play either roles in a 5-3-2.
Courtney can be a very frustrating player at times for the fans, but can also have his moments of brilliance. I always find that he is much more highly rated by opposition fans rather than our own! He started his ColU career brilliantly and was a consistent starter then over the last two years has slowly declined, but has shown signs of promise again coming off the bench. Probably only guaranteed to start because of Kwame Poku and Callum Harriott being away on international duty. If we can get him back to his best, he can be unstoppable, but that hasn’t happened for some time now and if he doesn’t improve I can see him being released in the summer.
Finally Frank Nouble, one of the big fan favourites and was a huge re-signing for us on deadline day on loan from Plymouth. It served as a real inspiring moment for the fans and the club during a terrible run of form and after being told we would probably bring in no more players a week before. Many will look at his record and say he isn’t a particularly great goalscorer, but in his previous spell between 2018 and last summer he was always used as a winger and like Harry Pell he has a great character and plenty of experience which you could say is lacking in our squad. He was released last summer alongside a number of others because of the effects of the pandemic, but I think everyone is hoping we can get him back permanently this summer. A lot will of course depend on what league we are in and if the money will be there.
Thank you very much for reading,