WHEN Dean Gerken made a welcome to Colchester United this summer after a decade away from the club, he immediately made his intentions very clear.

“I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform this year,” said the popular goalkeeper, after re-joining the club where it all began for him as a youngster.

Judging by his impressive performances so far this season, Gerken’s high standards – and all of his years and experience of playing for Ipswich Town and Bristol City in the Championship - are paying rich dividends for Colchester, for whom the goalkeeper position was a well-documented talking point last season.

The 34-year-old is proving to be an excellent addition for the U’s, his fine performance at Macclesfield Town last weekend the latest in a string of fine displays he has already produced for his side this season.

The superb first-half saves Gerken made to deny Arthur Gnahoua and Theo Archibald ultimately helped keep Colchester in the game at Moss Rose, paving the way for them to claim a creditable away point.

It is not the first time this season he made a big impact in games and his performance at Macclesfield followed hot on the heels of his crucial save in the penalty shoot-out from Christian Eriksen in the U’s stunning Carabao Cup triumph over Spurs.

A few weeks earlier, Gerken had shone in Colchester’s second-round triumph at Crystal Palace, excelling over 90 minutes before saving Andros Townsend’s opening spot-kick to send the U’s on the way to their shoot-out triumph at Selhurst Park.

“I haven’t faced too many penalties during my career, I don’t think," said Gerken.

“I think these have been my first two (shoot-outs) in the cups but obviously, it’s been good so far so I’m enjoying it.”

Prior to the 1-1 draw at Macclesfield, Gerken had kept more clean sheets - seven in total in League Two and the Carabao Cup - than any other top-four tier goalkeeper this season.

“It was great after what happened (against Spurs) to get himself going again and at his age, Dean still trains particularly well,” said U’s head coach John McGreal after the Macclesfield draw.

“I have really good plaudits for Dean and he’s a top-class Championship keeper for me.”

Gerken is one of Colchester’s most experienced squad members having racked up more than 300 career appearances since being handed his senior Colchester debut by Phil Parkinson back in April, 2004.

The Essex-born shot stopper, who made 127 appearances for Colchester before leaving them for Bristol City in 2009, helped the U’s secure a historic promotion during his first spell at the club.

How fitting it would be if Gerken could help Colchester achieve the feat again this season, only this time back to League One.

That is certainly Gerken's main objective.

“I signed here to get promoted,” said Gerken, who made 116 appearances for Ipswich during his six-year spell at Portman Road.

“I knew Frank (Nouble) from before – he told me about the situation (Colchester) we’d been in and what we’re going to be going for.

“I’m really enjoying it – they’re a good bunch of lads.

“Colchester was always a good fit for me, having been here in the past but I want to be in a successful team.”