TRIBUTES are being paid to a popular and long-serving Colchester United academy coach who has died.

Phil Eley worked as a coach within the U's youth set-up for more than 20 years.

Phil was a widely respected and top youth coach and had a hand in the development of countless young players, including the likes of current U's rising star, Noah Chilvers and current Blackburn Rovers attacker, Sammie Szmodics.


Colchester sporting director Dmitri Halajko told the U's website: “Phil’s dedication to Colchester United and the young academy players was second to none.

"He was pivotal in the progression of the Colchester United Academy for over twenty years and helped coached hundreds of young players during his time at the club.


“Phil has had a great connection with the young players he coached, his positive energy and warmth here were infectious, and he truly cared about the youngsters.

“As a club, we are so lucky to have had a coach like Phil for such a number of years and everybody at Colchester United is deeply saddened by the news.”


Former Colchester youngster Louis Dunne wrote on social media: 'Cant believe this, One of the best coaches I had in the academy, a real inspiration to me and I know many others in my age group. A great guy and sincere condolences to his family. RIP Phil'


Fellow ex-U's youngster Sam Cornish wrote: 'One of the best coaches I had during my time at Colchester who always had a smile on his face, RIP Phil'.

Colchester United have said that the thoughts of everyone at the club are with Phil’s family and friends at this sad time.