JOHN McGreal has revealed that Colchester United stole a march on rival clubs to snap up defender Omar Sowunmi.

The Colchester-born defender joined the U’s on a two-year deal from Yeovil Town earlier this week, for an undisclosed fee.

Sowunmi, 23, was the subject of reported interest from a number of clubs including Grimsby Town, prior to signing for Colchester.

McGreal told the Gazette: “There were other clubs interested in Omar but the good thing is that we were able to get him in the building before he spoke to them.

“We’re delighted to have him here.

“He’s been a captain before and he knows the division.

“He’s a great height and very mobile – we knew that already but it’s something that’s already shown in his stats.

“He’s a local boy but he’s gone away from the area at a young age to try and get football and that shows his desire.

“He’s 6ft 5in, dominant in the air and has the licence to grow as a player at our football club.

“You only have to look at Frankie Kent getting a fantastic move to a promotion-chasing division one team to see that and it’s another pull.”

Colchester have signed Luke Ige following his release from Premier League new boys Aston Villa.

The 18-year-old has signed a one-year deal with the U's and will initially link up with their under-23 squad, after leaving Villa Park at the end of last season.

Ige, who is a right-sided player who can play at right-back, featured twice for the U's under-23 on trial in the final weeks of the 2018-19 campaign.

He signed for Villa at the age of 15 and came through the academy ranks at the Midlands club, after signing a scholarship at 16.

The teenager was involved in Aston Villa's first-team pre-season preparations, last summer.

Ige joins Matthew Weaire, Danny Collinge and Sammie McLeod in linking up with the U's under-23 squad ahead of the new season.

Colchester are currently in the process of recruiting new under-23 and under-18 managers, following the respective departures of Kevin Horlock and Chris Llewellyn last month.

The U's are also on the hunt for a new academy manager, after Jon de Souza left the role to take charge as the club's Director of Performance.