DEPARTING defender Ryan Jackson has backed Steve Ball to be a success in his new role as Colchester United head coach.

Jackson completed a move to League One side Gillingham last week, having been told by the U’s that his contract would not be renewed in the wake of the financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 30-year-old spent three seasons at the JobServe Community Stadium, with the defender working closely with Ball during his time as assistant manager to John McGreal.

The experienced right-back says Ball has plenty of qualities – and believes the former U’s striker can be a big hit in his new role.

Jackson said: “I wish him all the best – he’s a top coach, a good motivator and he’s there for the boys.

“Bally’s good at getting around the changing rooms and speaking with all the boys.

“From minute one since I joined Colchester he’s fed me with nothing but confidence and allows everyone to express themselves.

“I’ve no doubt that he’ll be a good manager so hopefully he can pick up where we left off and keep pushing.”

Jackson admits McGreal’s departure as head coach last month came as a ‘bit of a shock’.

Jackson played 140 league and cup games under McGreal over a three-year period and was one of the first names on the U’s teamsheet, in that time.

“I was a little bit surprised by the news,” said Jackson, who joined Gillingham for a second spell last week.

“He was my gaffer for three years and I’ve got nothing but good words to say about him.

“He’s a top manager and he liked to play the right way.

“He’s good at managing the boys and the squad and it’s just a shame it’s happened.

“I wouldn’t have predicted it and it was a bit of a shock to me but you can’t predict anything these days, with what’s going on.”

Jackson was left looking for a new club following Colchester’s decision not to offer him a new deal.

The popular full-back has now returned to League One with Gillingham for a second time, having made 80 appearances for the Kent side during his first spell there between 2015 and 2017.

He added: “I’m happy to have got myself sorted.

“With the circumstances I’d have liked to have stayed and got promoted at Colchester but things weren’t meant to be.

“But I’m happy to be sorted and looking forward to the new season.

“I had a few teams showing interest with my contract expiring.

“But my main focus was to finish the season as well and as high up as possible with Colchester.

“It’s a shame how it ended but I had a good time there – I enjoyed my time there and I guess it was time just to move on.

“I’ve got quite a lot of close friends still at Colchester and I’m still close with Bally as well, so I’ll always keep a lookout.

“I want them to do well next year because they deserve it – the club, the fans and the players.”