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I think it’s fair to say that Ray Crawford was as frustrated as any Colchester United supporter looking on and seeing the club lose their way during the last campaign.
Certainly, the lockdown, leading to a tightening of the budget didn’t help. Nevertheless, the U’s slipped from promotion contenders at the conclusion of the 2019/20 campaign to a side dangerously close to slipping out of the EFL within the space of ten months.
But the appointment of Hayden Mullins and Paul Tisdale signalled a change of direction for Colchester. Form toward the tail end of the last campaign was much improved, and although Tisdale has now departed, former West Ham midfielder Mullins has begun to shape a squad capable of mounting a serious push for a play-off berth.
“I think the Chairman knows he has made one or two mistakes,” Crawford told Yellow Sport.
“I was puzzled by some of the departures ahead of lockdown. Colchester suffered badly as a result, in a ruthless division in which you need strong, experienced pros.”
Mullins moved quickly to re-sign frontmen, Frank Nouble and Freddie Sears, while Alan Judge, Cole Skuse and Luke Chambers have joined the latter in moving from local rivals, Ipswich Town.
And with Luke Hannant and Cameron Coxe coming in from Cambridge United and Solihull Moors respectively, Crawford believes the U’s are back on track and both the Manager and Chairman should be credited for turning things around.
“Ultimately, Robbie Cowling would have had to okay everything. Hayden has brought in Alex Dyer to assist him. The pair have a good knowledge of what is available and although to the fans, Ipswich is a rivalry, it is important that the club are able to do business with them in this way. In this instance, bringing in four senior professionals will give us backbone and a bit of quality.”
Crawford continued: “I know that every club is busy this time of year. The players are back in training, everything is geared towards the opening game of the season at Carlisle.
“But Hayden can only focus on what we do, and from what I’ve seen, Colchester are in decent shape ahead of the big kick-off.
“Robbie has allowed the manager to shape his own squad. Of course, it’s great to see youth players come through and make an impact. But in recognising that this needs to be in balance, the Chairman has given Colchester the best possible chance of getting back into League One after a lengthy spell in the bottom division.
“There are no certainties in football, but I’d like to think that the U’s will be up amongst the challengers when the proper stuff gets underway next month.”