JOHN McGreal admits Sam Saunders will be a loss to his Colchester United squad, this season.

But the U’s head coach says the midfielder made a big impact during his short time with the club.

Saunders made six appearances for Colchester at the back end of last season, finishing on the losing side only once after joining them on a free transfer in January.

The 35-year-old had been in talks with the U’s about potentially extending his stay at the JobServe Community Stadium.

But the midfielder announced his retirement from football last month and has now taken up a coaching role at Championship club Brentford.

McGreal told the Gazette: “Sam’s taken the assistant manager role at Brentford and we couldn’t really match that deal.

“He was talking to the club and they couldn’t really agree on a deal, as such.

“I’ve had text conversations with Sam and he was brilliant for me – a real gent.

“I didn’t really know him before he came here but you get what it says on the tin from Sam.

“He was devilish in midfield, could pick a pass and also brilliant around the place with the young boys.

“He was brilliant with the likes of Todd Miller, Ollie Kensdale, Noah Chilvers and Ryan Clampin towards the end of last season.

“It will be a loss because he was excellent but it opens up the door for others and there’s plenty of competition in there already.”

There has been plenty of other player movement at Colchester already this summer.

The U’s have drafted in Omar Sowunmi, Luke Gambin and Michael Fernandes but the likes of Sammie Szmodics, Frankie Kent and Brennan Dickenson have all left.

Kent ended his long association with Colchester when he joined Peterborough on a three-year deal.

McGreal presided over a large chunk of the defender’s development, having coached him at both senior and academy level.

The U’s boss admits he is ‘gutted’ to see Kent go but is pleased the defender has joined what he feels are a club that will push for promotion.

He said: “I’m disappointed to see Frankie go from a selfish point of view, knowing what a season he had last year.

“He got Player of the Year and he finished the season as our captain, which he’s done for me a number of times.

“I’ve known him since he was 16 and we’ve had a brilliant relationship throughout but on the other hand, I’m absolutely delighted for him that he’s joined a team pushing to get out of division one.

“There were obviously other clubs interested but he’s gone and spoken to Darren (Ferguson) and Frank has picked a club where he feels he can progress and play at a good standard.

“He’ll easily do that because he’s played more or less every game since I’ve been here.”