COLCHESTER United legend Karl Duguid has drawn parallels between sought-after Sammie Szmodics and England international Jamie Vardy.

The U’s attacker has been linked with a £1 million move to Premier League side AFC Bournemouth, having previously been tracked by scouts from Middlesbrough and Millwall.

Despite missing six weeks with an ankle injury, he already has a dozen goals to his name, is Colchester’s leading scorer and has today been nominated as League Two Player-of-the-Month for December.

Duguid is among his many admirers and told the Gazette: “Sammie’s a great kid. He lives round the corner from me so we speak regularly.

“He’s always kept in contact and never been afraid to ask questions or for my advice.

“He’s been in great form, is a fantastic finisher and scored some very important goals.

“When he’s flying, he’s flying and even when things aren’t going well, you could never question his work-rate.

“He always gives everything and I guess in that respect you could almost liken him to someone like Jamie Vardy.

“In other words he’s a real pest to play against and clubs look for that kind of player.

“Sammie’s had his problems with injuries but he’s probably one of the fittest lads at the club.

“I certainly think he could play at a higher level, although how high I wouldn’t like to say.

“He’s got the personality, drive and desire to step up and that will take you a long way.”

Former Stanway School student Szmodics has made nearly 100 league and cup appearances for the U’s, since Joe Dunne handed him his senior debut for them back in September 2013.

The 22-year-old progressed through Colchester’s academy and while his possible departure would be a blow to their promotion hopes, it would also signal another milestone for the U’s academy, following in the footsteps of Alex Gilbey, who left for Wigan Athletic in June 2016.

If an offer is forthcoming, Duguid says it will be a huge decision both for the player and club.

“Seeing his name being linked with a big move will do his confidence no harm at all, even if it is just paper talk,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure the club won’t want to lose him but if they get an offer that’s good for them financially, and in turn allows them to bring other players in, something may happen.

“Sammie will be keen to play at the highest level and if an offer does come in, it’ll be a big decision both for him and Colchester.

“It’s certainly a massive leap from League Two to the Premier League, though.

“That’s the toughest league in the world, in my opinion.

“I would suggest that if he were to leave, the next step and natural destination should be the Championship.

“In the meantime, he’s got to keep working hard and try and maintain a level of consistency.”

Szmodics, 22, was left out of Colchester’s starting line-up for their 4-1 home defeat against Cheltenham Town on Saturday.

However, head coach John McGreal confirmed afterwards that his decision was down to “fatigue”.

Duguid, who played over 400 times for Colchester, has his own experience of moving on to a higher-placed club, having ended his 14-year association with the U’s when he joined then Championship club Plymouth Argyle in June 2008.

“I was a bit older when I made my move,” he said.

“Maybe I could have gone earlier but I was happy where I was.

“I’m glad I did it eventually, though, and otherwise I would have always wondered ‘what if’.

“All players want to test themselves at the highest level possible.

“I was no different and I’m sure the same applies to someone like Sammie.”

Duguid, who was also a coach at Colchester, is now assistant manager at Thurlow Nunn League side Stanway Rovers, where he works alongside fellow U’s legend and Rovers boss Kem Izzet.

Colchester have an Essex Senior Cup quarter-final tie at home to holders Chelmsford City tonight.

The Clarets, of National League South, lifted the cup at the Weston Homes Community Stadium last March following a 1-0 victory over East Thurrock United.

Kick-off at the Community Stadium is at 7.45pm.