He was teased for being a “southern softie” during his time there.

But Richard Hall says moving to Scunthorpe from Suffolk as a fresh-faced teenager proved the perfect grounding for him to flourish in the professional game.

The Colchester United assistant manager joined the Iron at the age of 16 after leaving Ipswich Town, with his fledgling career at a crossroads.

The Ipswich-born former defender excelled at Glanford Park, with his impressive performances earning him a move to Southampton and the Premier League.

The U’s game at Scunthorpe United tomorrow will see Hall return to his former club, where he spent a productive two-and-a-half years as a young defender.

And Colchester’s number two says his time in Lincolnshire helped prepare him for life at the highest level of the game.

Hall said: “I’ve got a lot of affinity with Scunthorpe - it was 25 years ago but I always look for their results.

“It was a tough place to go and live for a lad from the south - they called me a southern softie!

“I suppose it was my first start in football really, where I learnt about being a player in a football environment.

“I said to myself that if I couldn’t make it at Scunthorpe I probably wouldn’t have been good enough, so it was a good grounding for me.

“I had two years there as an apprentice and six months as a pro.

“Things went extremely well there for me and Neil Cox and Graham Alexander were both there with me, at the time.

“We challenged each other as defenders in training every day and all three of us went through to the first team.”

Hall says he is enjoying his role as Colchester’s assistant manager, having taken over in the role upon Tony Humes’ appointment as manager last month.

The former U’s academy coach said: “I’m loving every minute and the challenge it brings every day.

“I’m enjoying it and I think the players are too - they’re taking on the challenges that we’re setting them and there’s a buzz about the place at the moment.”

For a three-page preview of the U's game with Scunthorpe, see Friday's Daily Gazette.