BEN Garner says he has had conversations with his Colchester United squad about how to lift the club to the next level.

The U’s head coach held a series of player meetings last week, resulting in the club announcing their retained list as they plan ahead for the 2023-24 campaign.

Garner led Colchester to League Two safety this season, after succeeding Matt Bloomfield as head coach at the beginning of March.

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And the former Charlton Athletic and Swindon Town boss says he has been keen to receive feedback from players, as preparations for the next campaign gather pace.

Gazette: Ben Garner

Garner said: “I got the players’ feedback quite a lot when I first came in, especially from the players who had been here for quite a while.

“I wanted to know their thoughts on the club, where it’s strong, where we can improve, where they think maybe things haven’t gone right and why have we been down the bottom of the division.

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“Then (I’ve had) those conversations again in terms of how we move forwards and get to the next level.

“We know what we want to do, where we want to go, how we want to recruit and it’s going to be down to hard work now over the summer to do that.

“We’ll be working hard in terms of recruitment and we’ve already started that process.

“I expect it to be a busy summer.”

Gazette: Ben Garner

An eight-match unbeaten run in the final weeks of the season led to Colchester securing their EFL status and Garner being nominated for the Manager of the Month award for April.

The U’s boss says it was important he gave the club’s players an identity from which to play and improve.

“We like to be process based,” said Garner.

“It’s such a low-scoring sport, football and there can be so many reasons behind why things happen in the games.

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“But I think if you completely panic and you say ‘let’s change the team, let’s change the shape’ then how are you really progressing and moving forward?

“I think coming into this situation, it was right for me to give the players a platform to work from and identity and say ‘this is what we’re going to look like, this is our way of playing’ and that we’re going to improve it.

“We want to be consistent and also give that confidence to the players.

“There were good performances and there’s been a lot of good in those games.”