COLCHESTER United head coach John McGreal says he is relishing his status as one of the country’s longest-serving managers.

The U’s chief is currently tenth in the list of bosses who have been at the helm the longest at their respective clubs, in England’s top four divisions.

McGreal has been in charge at Colchester for nearly three and a half years, presiding over 172 league and cup games since being appointed as Kevin Keen’s successor at the JobServe Community Stadium back in May, 2016.

McGreal locks swords with the country’s current longest-serving manager – Jim Bentley – when the U’s host bottom club Morecambe this weekend.

And as he bids to lead his side into the League Two play-off places, McGreal having such durability in football is a positive thing.

McGreal said: “It’s a good thing to have the longevity, because not many people get it and you do have to work so hard.

“It’s not always going to be there and I understand that.

“There will be certain times when managers do have to move on and I know that’s going to happen but I’m really enjoying it at the minute.

“It’s been fantastic and it’s a brand new team that we’ve got this year.

“We had a slow start but now we’re a place off the play-offs, we’ve got Crawley standing between us and the last eight (of the Carabao Cup) and we’re looking forward to hopefully a big crowd against Ipswich at the early part of next month (in the Trophy).

“The season has been going particularly well and again, we have to keep improving.

“You have to try and win games of football.

“We obviously have a philosophy and we have to bring through the under-23s.

“We have a brilliant chairman here – that goes without saying.

“But I do feel as though with me and Steve (Ball) over the three and a bit years in terms of budgets and players who have left and being able to get good money in for them, it’s been a combination of everything really.

“It’s also been about playing a certain style of football and we’ve certainly got our brand we want to play – that philosophy goes through to the Academy.”

McGreal has the utmost respect for his Morecambe counterpart Bentley, who has been in charge of the Shrimps since May, 2011.

“Jim’s the longest serving manager in the EFL so he knows a thing or two, in this Football League and I know Kenny Mac (McKenna) particularly well from my time at Tranmere,” said McGreal.

“When I did my YTS at Tranmere, Kenny was one of the younger pros there.

“He gave us a good foothold into the game there.

“They’re really good friends of mine.

“For the last three and a half years, they’ve been there if ever I’ve needed any advice.

“There’s always so many managers that want to tell you about budgets and it happens everywhere you go.

“But Morecambe do have the lowest budget in the division – that goes without saying and we know that, because I’ve got to know Jim and Ken and how things are.

“They’ve done a brilliant job and you only have to look at the fans.

“I think Jim got fined a couple of years ago and the fans ended up paying it for him.

“So it just shows you that closeness and togetherness that they’ve got and they’ll need that again, because every year they get themselves out of that area and put in some great performances throughout.

“We have to be on our guard because if we’re not on it, Morecambe will come and turn us over.

“We’ve found it tough to beat them over the last few years especially at home because they’ve come with a game plan, are good on set pieces and have great experience throughout the team.

“We know we’ll have to be on the money to win the game.”