Essex club Colchester United are one of the younger clubs in the Football League, having been formed 77 years ago, in 1937.The 2014/15 season will be their seventh consecutive one in League One, having spent two seasons in the Championship from 2006-08.
Nicknamed the U’s, they play their home matches at the Colchester Community Stadium, a modern 10,000 seater complex which opened in 2008.
Under the management of Paul Lambert, the U’s famously beat newly relegated side Norwich City 7-1 at Carrow Road on the first day of a new League One season in 2009/10. After overseeing his sides’ hammering of the Canaries, Lambert left the U’s to take up the vacant post at Carrow Road ten days later. Four months after the 7-1 drubbing, Lambert saw his Norwich side turn the tables by beating Colchester 5-0.
The club’s highest ever finish came in 2006/07, their first in the Championship, under Welshman Geraint Williams. They earned promotion the previous year with thanks to former Iron Chris Iwelumo, who netted an impressive 19 goals to fire his side to the second tier.
Jamie Cureton was signed to partner Iwelumo in the Championship and the pairing went on to fire 24 and 18 goals respectively.
After a bad start to the season, losing their first four matches, the U’s never went on to lose more than two matches in a row and they went on to finish a club record tenth.
Manager: Joe Dunne
Irishman Joe Dunne took over Colchester on a permanent basis two years ago and the 2014/15 season will be his third as manager of the U’s. He first served as John Ward’s assistant before stepping up to the post once Ward was dismissed.
His management style is very supportive of youngsters- he has continually blooded them into the first-team fore from the Colchester academy since he took over and he handed debuts to six youngsters in his first season as boss. His reliance and confidence in youth players is highly commendable and cost effective.
Dunne had a 13-year career on the field as a defender, coming through the ranks at Gillingham, where he played over 110 times in six years before moving to Colchester, where he would make around 124 appearances in three years. A short spell at Dover ensued before the fans’ favourite returned to Colchester, making a transition into the backroom aged 29.
He had four successful seasons with the youth team, then the reserve team and assisting the first-team manager.
A favourite with the fans in his playing days, Dunne is hoping to repay their support by leading the U’s to the Championship with the youth.
Key Player: Freddie Sears
After failing to live up to the hype as a product of the famed West Ham United academy, Freddie Sears has finally found his feet in professional football and he’s now flourishing with Colchester United.
The 5ft 7in forward fired 12 goals in 32 apps last season, a four-goal improvement from the year before. He has been one half of a strikeforce with Jabo Ibehre, who scored 9 goals as they fired the U’s to safety and a comfortable finish to the season.
Whilst Tom Eastman scooped the club’s Player of the Year award, Sears has come on leaps and bounds since arriving at the club in 2012, initially on loan.
A former loanee at Glanford Park, Sears came through the ranks with the Hammers, scoring five minutes into his debut aged 18. Naturally, hopes were high from the Upton Park faithful and he was loaned out to aid his development, spending time at Crystal Palace, Coventry City, the Iron and Colchester.
In his time with us, at the end of 2010, he appeared nine times for another team in claret and blue, failing to find the back of the net.
After his release from the Hammers, he signed a three-year deal with Colchester and he has scored a total of 22 times in 80 appearances, equalling a goal every 327 minutes.
The 2013/14 season marked the first full season under Joe Dunne, after he took over in September of the previous season, and now he could finally be judged after adjusting his side.
With his support of youth, United finished 16th, six points above the relegation zone. Without the goals of Ibehre and Sears, it may have been a different story and the U’s will be keen to keep hold of their front pairing, as well as defensive unit, and Player of the Year, Tom Eastman.
They began the first four games of their season in good form, winning twice and drawing two after that. They then went on a run of going without a win in 11 games, until they beat Peterborough at the end of October. A run of four consecutive losses at the end of March, going into April, drew them closer to the relegation zone and three wins and a draw in their last five games of the season ensured their League One status for 2014/15.
They accumulated 53 points, with 13 wins and 14 draws, losing 19 times.