COLCHESTER United boss John McGreal has hailed the versatility of returning defender or midfielder Cameron James.

The 20-year-old is back after a loan spell at National League neighbours Braintree Town and was an unused substitute in Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Newport County.

Chelmsford-born James was also among the substitutes for last week's Checkatrade Trophy defeat at Cambridge United.

And McGreal says that being such a versatile player makes him a useful commodity within his U's squad.

“He’s been centre-back, centre-back in the three, he’s been playing centre midfield at Braintree and he’s also played wing-back and full-back," said the Colchester boss, whose side have a home date with Exeter City on Saturday.

“That’s the beauty of Cam. He can play in a variety of roles.

“I don’t think he can put the gloves on or is a goalscorer, although I’m sure if you put him up front, he'll try and do a job for you!

“He was delighted to come back – he raced back in on the Monday and was on the bench at Cambridge.

“He’s done particularly well for Braintree playing week in, week out."

James joined Colchester's Academy at the age of nine, progressing through the age groups before making his professional debut in May 2016.

Having previously had a loan spell at Chelmsford City, he joined Braintree in August and featured 12 times for the Iron.

Meanwhile, McGreal was also praiseworthy of another young player, Diaz Wright, for his performance at Newport.

The 20-year-old made only his sixth league appearance this season but only his second start, having also been in the line-up for Colchester's draw at Tranmere Rovers in early September.

“For such a young lad, he did really well," said the U's boss.

“He’s been training with the first team and some of his passing and technique was excellent.

"He's getting more game time.

“You know what you’re getting with Diaz – he’s a footballing midfielder.

“He still has to improve on the other side of it but you know you get some crisp passes and a range of passing from him."

While disappointed to lose at the weekend, McGreal insists there is plenty to be positive about and he is proud of the number of young academy players making their mark in his first team.

“I think we had seven of our academy players out there so when it’s all doom and gloom, we can also look at the positives and think ‘right, what are we doing at the football club?’

“That’s what we’re doing at the football club – we’re giving opportunities and we’re sitting fourth in the league, with seven of our academy boys in the team.

“I can’t see that anywhere else, in division two or division one, so we’ve got a lot to be proud of at this football club."