JOE Dunne hopes goalkeeper Sam Walker becomes the next player to nail his colours to Colchester United’s mast.

The Chelsea loanee reaches the end of his loan spell on January 19.

Discussions are ongoing about keeping him longer but manager Dunne admits he faces “lots of competition”.

However, he hopes Walker follows Luke Garbutt in opting to extend his stay at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

Everton full-back Garbutt signed for another month on Tuesday.

“Luke has done exceptionally well and we’re honoured he’s agreed to extend his stay,” said Dunne. “Now we’re hoping to come to a similar arrangement with Sam.

“We will always do everything we possibly can to keep our best players.

“We face lots of competition but I’ve spoken to him and his agent and I’m hopeful.

“The chairman has been very brave in terms of trying to keep both Sam and Luke.

“There’s only so much we can offer and that’s the way the way it has to be.

“But we feel this is the right place for him to further his development, because he’s playing lots of games in fantastic surroundings.

“Like Luke, he’s been another key player for us. He’s only young – a baby, in goalkeeping terms – but he has so much potential.

“We feel that in the immediate future he’s at the right place to fulfil a lot of it here. I can’t speak highly enough of him, both as a goalkeeper and an individual.

“He’s a great character and deserves a lot of credit for the way he’s played and conducted himself during his time at Colchester.”

Walker has two more games before his loan expires, starting with this weekend’s home match against Gillingham.

As things stand, his final appearance would then be the trip to Carlisle United on January 18.

“Sam’s focus has to be our next two games,” said Dunne. “Discussions are ongoing but, from his point of view, he needs to concentrate on his football and have the correct mindset.”

Dunne admitted the soggy conditions have hindered training this week. “Everyone’s in good shape and we’re monitoring how and where we train, because of the wet weather,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll be back on grass by the end of the week.

“But we won’t be doing anything unnecessary because it’s taken so long to get the squad back together. The last thing we’re going to do is run the risk of another player getting injured.”