DARREN Smith's appointment as Colchester United's new goalkeeper coach is already paying dividends, according to boss John McGreal.

Smith has left his role as head of goalkeeping in Ipswich Town's academy to succeed Rene Gilmartin as the U's new keeper-coach.

Smith, who was an integral part of Town's Academy coaching staff for a number of years, has already been working closely with Colchester's number one Dean Gerken - with whom he linked up with during his time at Portman Road - along with Ethan Ross and Bailey Vose.

McGreal said: “We lost Rene (Gilmartin) – I think it was a bit of a 50-50 split with the fans with him but he was brilliant for me.

“He’s gone to a top, top Championship club so it shows how much high esteem Bristol City hold Rene in as a goalkeeper and as a coach.

“To replace him was going to be tough but Smudge comes in having worked with one of the best goalkeeper coaches I’ve worked under as well in (former Ipswich Town goalkeeper coach) Malcolm Webster.

“He’s been working with him for a number of years at Ipswich, where he’s been involved in first-team football.

“He’s a local boy and I think it’s been a brilliant move.

“Having Dean Gerken here, it’s given it a helping hand because Smudge has worked with him.

“You can already see the improvement in our two younger goalkeepers in Ethan (Ross) and Bailey (Vose) so it’s a really good move for Darren.

“It will also improve Dean even though he’s 34 years of age because goalkeepers can go on and play until they’re immobile.

“Looking at the way Gerks has been performing and training, he’s been in top form and that’s down to Darren as well, with the work that he’s been putting in."