ROBBIE Cowling admits Colchester United will eventually have to sell some of their talented players in order for their reputation to continue to flourish.

The U’s have won plenty of admirers over recent years for the way in which they offer youngsters a pathway from their academy into first-team football.

The likes of Sammie Szmodics, Frankie Kent and Tom Lapslie have all flourished at senior level for Colchester, having emerged from their youth team set-up.

And chairman Cowling says that if the club are to continue to prosper and enhance their growing status, it will mean some of their hot prospects moving on to bigger clubs.

Speaking at the U’s fans forum, Cowling said: “I know people will be disappointed when it happens but we do need to sell some players.

“We’re getting a really good reputation as a club for giving a pathway to youngsters to get in our team.

“But for that to move to the next level, it needs to be seen that they move on and they progress, because then we’ll attract even more boys.

“We may not like it but it’s quite right that all of our players want to progress and go on further than Colchester United.

“That’s how they should be - they should be ambitious and we need to see that happen.

“So don’t get too disappointed when we sell people, because it’s part of the plan really.”

Meanwhile Cowling says he will invest in new signings for Colchester in the future – providing they continue to do the groundwork first.

The U’s chairman has revealed the club splashed out more than £350,000 on new signings, this year following the arrival of Luke Norris, Harry Pell and the recent capture of Ben Stevenson, in the January transfer window.

“I mentioned about three years ago that recruitment was something that we wanted to look at,” said Cowling.

“It’s been a hard process in that time and we’ve worked really hard there.

“Iain Moody came in first of all to help us with a bit of consultation and Tony Humes and Tony Ashby have worked really hard, as well.

“Last season, we did player reports on over 500 players to be able to identify the ones that we wanted and this year, we’ll probably end up doing even more reports than that.

“We have got a good system now and this year, we’ve spent more than £350,000 buying players this year with Luke Norris, Ben Stevenson and Harry Pell.

“I’m happy to invest in things if work has gone on behind it, so we make sound investments.

“The big investment over the years has been the academy and the club has spent a lot of money on that.

“The club is coming a long way and if we can get it better, I’ll try and invest a bit more on players coming in but we have to make sure they’re right.”

Cowling insists that he will not allow players just to be brought in for the sake of it at Colchester.

The U’s have benefited from some productive recruitment over the last 12 months, with the likes of Pell, Nouble and Stevenson all drafted in.

Cowling added: “The staff with a lot of help from John (McGreal) have worked really hard on identifying and recruiting the right players.

“I’ve not let the budget burn a hole in our pocket at times where we have in the past.

“If we don’t know about a player, then we won’t bring them in.

“We won’t just bring players in for the sake of it, a mistake that we’ve made in the past.

“As well as we want the right characters on the pitch, I think as a club we have got good values and it’s right to have the right characters coming into this building.

“I think we have that – if you look at a lot of what goes on in general and not just in football, I think this club should be really proud of the playing staff and the way they represent the club.”