Colchester United plan to send more of their talented young players out on loan following a change in strategy at the top of their academy.

The U’s are set to field a much younger under-23 side in Professional Development League Two next season, in a bid to see their promising youngsters gain further first-team experience in a more competitive environment.

The revamp has seen Wayne Brown leave his role as Colchester’s under-23 manager after two years to take over as Maldon and Tiptree manager, as part of the Bostik League club’s ongoing alliance with the U’s.

He will be assisted by another U’s promotion winner, Paul Abrahams, at Park Drive.

As a result, former Manchester City and West Ham United star Kevin Horlock has made the reverse switch from Maldon boss to U’s under-23 manager, having worked with the age group as Brown’s assistant since 2016.

Horlock’s side is expected to be made up predominantly of 18 and 19 year-old players, with more senior youngsters now plying their trade on loan at other clubs.

And Maldon, where a number of Colchester’s youngsters have played over the last three seasons as part of the link-up between the two clubs, are now set to play an even greater role in the structure of the U’s set-up immediately below first-team level.

The appointment of Brown as Maldon manager further demonstrates the increasingly significant position the non-league outfit will have within the League Two club’s player pathway, integral to chairman Robbie Cowling’s strong emphasis on the youth set-up at the Community Stadium.

Colchester academy manager Jon De Souza told the Daily Gazette: “We’ve had a bit of a change in strategy.

“More of our senior development players will go out on loan and play senior football.

“We’ve carried out a lot of research into this area of young player development and we feel that is very beneficial for them.

“We’ll be looking to get our more senior under-23 players out on loan and experiencing first-team football and getting the benefits of playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday, in a senior environment.”

Brown will be tasked with the target of leading Maldon to promotion this season, in addition to develop young players who are eventually capable of progressing to EFL level, such as Ryan Gondoh and Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe.

“Ever since I’ve been here and before that too, Wayne has done a terrific job in developing young players,” said De Souza.

“We’ve seen the likes of Cameron James, Courtney Senior, Ryan Gondoh and Diaz Wright come through to first-team level under his guidance.

“The under-23s got through to the Premier League Cup quarter-finals under his guidance and he’s done a great job.

“It’s still early days and Wayne has just been appointed as Maldon manager, with the main aim of winning promotion.

“But if we can see more players like Junior and Ryan progress from there into the first team at Colchester, then that’s even better.

“We’re looking to get Maldon promoted twice in the next three years – that’s the target.

“In the short term, winning promotion in the Bostik North is the main aim but the Vanarama South is ultimately the golden ticket.

“The support will be there for Wayne to push the club forward and the aim will be to get out of the division.

“Ryan and Junior showed this season the benefits of playing senior football and then going into the first-team.”