DANNY Cowley is a big fan of having a sexy bench.

And a quick glance at a new Opta study shows that the Colchester United head coach has good reason to recognise the importance of substitutes, or finishers as he prefers to call them.

Colchester are among the top 20 clubs in English football’s top four divisions and inside the League Two’s top five, for substitute goal involvements.

U’s substitutes have contributed eight goals and eight assists so far in the 2023-24 campaign, having made 131 substitutions so far.

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"There's a skill to it,” said Cowley.

"If you go back through history of football with boys like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and boys like this, really intelligent boys will watch the game and almost pick holes in the opponent and then expose them.”

The Opta study has revealed that 642 goals have already been 642 goals scored by substitutes across the top four tiers of English league football this season, more than ever before.

With matches lasting longer with more time added on and teams permitted to use five substitutes in league matches, players coming off the bench have made a sizeable impact on English league games, in the current campaign.

Ipswich Town substitutes have scored the most league goals in England this season, hitting the net 21 times in the Championship.


For the U’s, the likes of Brad Ihionvien and Chay Cooper have made an impact off the bench.

All four of Ihionvien's league goals for Colchester this season have been as a substitute and boss Cowley says his substitutes have a vital part to play, in their remaining ten games of the season.

"With the way we play with a high energy pressing game, to have the opportunity to bring five players on is fantastic," said Cowley.

"It just allows us to freshen the team and keep the intensity that we want to play at.

"We always call them finishers; naturally, everyone wants to be in the starting XI and normally, the starting XI play for longer than the finishers.


"But the finishers actually come on at the most vital time of the game.

"For us, we want a sexy bench.

"We want to be checking over our shoulder thinking 'I've got that option, I've got this option'.

"You want that agility in games, to be able to impact and influence a match.

"I don't think anyone last Saturday (against Walsall) would have said we had finished the game playing for a draw.

"We had Owura (Edwards) and Jayden (Fevrier) as wing-backs, two forwards, two eights and to be fair, Walsall were throwing the kitchen sink at it as well."