FORMER Colchester United favourite Bobby Bowry feels the investment made by chairman Robbie Cowling is paying dividends at his old club.

John McGreal's young side lie just a point outside the League Two play-off positions and five points off the top three, following their emphatic 4-0 triumph at Northampton Town last weekend.

Colchester have handed more than 225 hours of game time to players 23 years old or younger in the league this season.

That is the eighth-highest ratio in the Football League, with home-grown products such as Sammie Szmodics, Frankie Kent and Tom Lapslie all shining for the U's.

And Bowry, who made 124 appearances for Colchester during his three and a half years with the club, says they are a club on the up.

Bowry said: “The chairman, who I get on well with, has ploughed a lot of money into the club and I hope they get up, this season.

“If they can go up this year, I actually believe they can do well and have a good season in League One next year.

“They had the two years in the Championship and then a number of years in League One.

“This year, they have a very strong team in League Two under John McGreal and I put them in the same bracket as a club like Luton Town, who are also a very well-run football club with an identity.

“The chairman there has had his fingers burnt in the past with paying over the odds for some players.

“They have got an environment there now where if they have got a good young player, they do have the confidence to play him.

“It comes from the infrastructure and the club blueprint that the chairman wants and there’s not so much pressure on the young players.

“I played with the likes of Greg Halford, Pat Baldwin, Dean Gerken and Craig Fagan when they were young players at Colchester – I know the value of these players, back in the day.

“Neil Danns was another example, of a young player coming into Colchester with a point to prove and doing really well.”

Bowry played for Colchester between 2001 and 2005 and became a popular figure during his time at Layer Road.

“I hold the club close to my heart – it’s a special club,” added the 47-year-old, who now works as a football agent.

“When you go there, you’re always made to feel very welcome.

“I was there for four years and played under Phil Parkinson.

“It was shame that I moved on just before they moved to their new stadium.

“But I loved playing at the Layerdrome and the evening games there under the lights especially were fantastic.”