COLCHESTER United’s promotion-winning manager Phil Parkinson says the club will always have a special place in his heart.

Parkinson, who is now boss of Bolton Wanderers, was reunited with his successful U’s 2005-06 squad earlier this week for their Sid Broomfield Trophy charity game against their Southend United counterparts.

Colchester was Parkinson’s first managerial job, after he took over in the hot seat from Steve Whitton at Layer Road in 2003.

And after spending more than three years with Colchester and guiding them to a historic promotion to the second tier, Parkinson says he will also have an affiliation with the U’s.

Parkinson told the Gazette: “Colchester will always have a place in my heart, without doubt.

“I’ll never, ever forget my time there.

“The stats of a young manager coming into a first job and not doing well and never being seen again on the managerial scene are pretty high, so it was so important for me personally to have that great grounding at such a fantastic club like Colchester.

“It helped me to learn my trade with good people around me helping me as well.

“I look back on that period so fondly and with so many fantastic memories.

“I loved living in the area and loved the atmosphere of Layer Road.

“Some of the games were memorable too, like the Yeovil one to get promoted – we’ll never, ever forget those days.”

Parkinson was reunited with his successful Colchester 2005-06 squad at the charity match against the Southend side, who won the League One title that season.

The game raised nearly £12,000 for Havens Hospices, in front of a crowd of 1,650 at Roots Hall on Monday night.

Parkinson was joined in the dugout on the night by former U’s player and coach Brian Owen and physio Stuart Ayles.

Colchester ran out 6-3 winners on the night, thanks to a hat-trick from Neil Danns, a double from Craig Fagan and another strike from Mark Yeates.