TOM Eastman’s attitude and ability have helped him become one of Colchester United’s leading all-time appearance makers - according to the man who first brought him to the club.

John Ward signed Eastman from neighbours Ipswich Town back on a two-year deal back in 2011 and since then the centre-back has not looked back, racking up more than 300 appearances for the U’s.

Eastman, who is now one of Colchester’s top-20 appearance makers, was presented with a commemorative shirt in recognition of his achievement prior to their 3-3 draw with Notts County, last Saturday.

And former U’s boss Ward, who was at the helm at the Community Stadium between 2010 and 2012, says the defender deserves plenty of credit for reaching the landmark.

Ward told the Gazette: “It’s brilliant that Tom has made 300 appearances for Colchester.

“He was a young man when we brought him in and he had things to work on like any other player but he was very mature for his age.

“To make that many appearances for one club shows the consistency of the player and he has shown that he has the right attitude to potentially go on and play there for ten years and possibly more.

“When you identify a player, you try to look at his background and attitude.

“I always say that it’s about attitude and ability – and they have to come in that order.

“He had to do it on a daily basis and you only know a player when you’ve got him under your wing.

“You have to be tough as a centre-back and consistent and we looked at Tom and said ‘he’s going to be alright’ – great credit to him.”

Eastman made 13 appearances for Ipswich at the start of his career but rejected a new offer at Portman Road to sign for Colchester on a free transfer.

“Tom had something to prove and Colchester have benefited from that,” said Ward, who now works as Professional Development coach at League One club Walsall.

“Whenever you sign a player, you’re taking a bit of a chance, particularly when you’re signing someone who is local.

“You have to ask ‘is he going to be in the comfort zone?’.

“You find that out about a player and a person and Tom always had the right attitude, which is credit to him.

“He’s come from a bigger club in Ipswich and moved on with his career.”

At the age of 27, defender Eastman is now one of Colchester’s most experienced players.

He is now training alongside the likes of up-and-coming defenders Ollie Kensdale and Ryan Clampin and Ward believes that can only be a good thing all around.

“The football club gives young players an opportunity and Tom is an example of that,” added Ward, who took charge of more than 700 competitive matches during his managerial career.

“They work ever so hard in the academy department at Colchester to give players a chance in the first team and I was very well supported by the chairman and the owner to do that.

“You have to work with players and help them be the best that they can be.

“Tom can pass that knowledge and experience down now.

“If you’re bringing a boy of 17 or 18 in, Tom is a great example of what can be achieved.”