JOHN McGreal has been confirmed as the new head coach of Colchester United.

The former defender has just been unveiled at a press conference at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

He replaces Kevin Keen, who surprisingly stepped down as first-team boss just over a week ago, and will take charge after Sunday's final game of the season, at home to Rochdale.

McGreal had been the U’s under-21 coach, working alongside Steve Ball, who will now be his assistant.

U's chairman Robbie Cowling said: "As everyone is aware, I like to try and develop the talent we’ve got in the building and appoint from within, both in terms of our young players and also in terms of our coaches and staff.

“When we found ourselves manager-less just before Christmas, we were unable to do that.

“We had great coaches, like John.

“But the club didn’t really have a structure at that point to help great coaches become great managers.

“So Tony Humes came back as director of football and we’ve worked really hard over the last few months to put in place a structure that allowed us (whenever there was a change of manager) to look at some of the good coaches we’ve got and to appoint them and give them the support they need.

“Maybe this appointment has come a little bit sooner than we expected, but we’re now able to offer the job to John.

“This time around, with the structure we’ve got in place, he felt confident about taking the role."

McGreal arrived at the club in 2009 after being brought in by then manager and now director of football Tony Humes.

He stepped into the breach as joint caretaker-boss alongside Richard Hall for one game – a 5-1 defeat at Burton Albion - back in November, following Humes’ departure.

McGreal previously had success with the club’s under-18s, leading them to a league and cup double in 2014.

And he feels he has "served his apprenticeship", in order to get this opportunity.

“It’s my first taste and having been here for six or seven years, I feel like I’ve served my apprenticeship," said the 43-year-old.

“I’ve got a lot of the badges and a lot of experience with the youth-team and two years with the under-21s.

“I think that has really helped in terms of me making this step to the top level.

“The more I’ve coached and the more games I’ve seen (since retiring as a player), you still get that feel for it and I feel now is the right time for me to step in and have a real go at it."

McGreal began his playing career with his local side Tranmere Rovers, where he progressed through the youth team to become a first-team regular, making over 200 appearances.

He joined Ipswich Town in the summer of 1999, helping the club to play-off success at Wembley and earning promotion to the Premier League.

He spent five years at Portman Road, making over 150 appearances, before joining Burnley in 2004.

He ended his career in 2007 after making over 100 appearances for the Clarets.

David Wright, who had been caretaker manager for last weekend's match at Barnsley, will not be in charge for Sunday's final game, at home to Rochdale.

This is due to a family bereavement.