SAMMIE Szmodics has paid tribute to John McGreal for the contribution he has made to his career following the attacker’s move from Colchester United to Bristol City.

McGreal coached Szmodics through the age groups at the U’s from academy to first-team level, prior to the 23-year-old making the switch to the Championship side for an undisclosed fee.

Szmodics was part of the Colchester under-18 side that won the league and cup double under McGreal and Wayne Brown, in 2014.

Since then, the Colchester-born attacker has gone on to establish himself as a mainstay in the U’s first-team starting line-up in the last three seasons that McGreal has been in charge, finishing as their top scorer in their last two campaigns.

Szmodics said: “I’m grateful to all of the staff at Colchester but the gaffer was the first I rang up.

“He turned me from a boy into a man.

“I was 15 or 16 years old when I met him and now I’m leaving Colchester a man – that’s down to the gaffer and his coaching.

“I’ve had a couple of seasons now where I’ve stayed injury free and I think I’ve matured.”

Szmodics has had to battle back from serious injuries more than once during his Colchester career.

He underwent ankle surgery in the 2015-16 season and the following campaign, broke his leg in a game at Crewe Alexandra.

“I probably thought I was bigger than I was before the injuries – I’m not saying that I’ve made it now but I’ve come back from them stronger and more powerful,” said the former Stanway School pupil.

“My confidence is high right now and that will stand me in good stead.

“My time at Colchester was not always positive – there were some negatives like the injuries but they helped to make me the player I am now.”

Szmodics is now looking forward to shining in the Championship, after signing a three-year deal at Bristol City.

The U’s have received an undisclosed compensation fee for the former Stanway School pupil, as he is under the age of 24.

Szmodics added: “I got a tour around Ashton Gate on Thursday and it brought back so many memories of the day I made my debut there and thinking it was the sort of place I’d like to play at in five or six years’ time.

“You just have to pinch yourself sometimes.

“I’ve thrown myself in at the deep end and what happens, happens.

“Our aim is to get promoted – I’ll take my attributes to Bristol City and give everything, work hard and hopefully pitch in with some assists and some goals.”