COLCHESTER United legend Steve Foley says he is 'very proud' after the starlet he unearthed signed a five-year professional deal at Arsenal.

Canadian youngster Marcelo Flores was first brought to England by Foley at the age of 13, after the experienced coach spotted him playing in the Cayman Islands.

Foley was on an exchange coaching trip with Ipswich Town when a chance meeting led to the former U's player, coach and manager discovering him.

Marcelo's father, Reuben, was coaching the Cayman Islands Women's team when Foley was there and spotted the talented youngster.

The former U's favourite asked the versatile attacker if he wanted to join in with his coaching camp and Marcelo ended up staying all week.

Foley arranged for Marcelo to come to England and link up with the Ipswich Town academy - and that led him to eventually signing for Arsenal in March, 2019.

The 17-year-old has already made a big impact in the Gunners academy, making five appearances in the league and FA Youth Cup for the under-18s.

Foley said: "He's done ever so well.

"He's now 17 and signed a contract with Arsenal - I'm very proud.

"He's at a club in Arsenal who will give him the opportunities to flourish.

"They lived in Canada and his dad was in the Cayman Islands coaching the Ladies team.

"When Marcelo came over it was initially a big gamble but we needed to see him in that environment.

"He reminded me of Craig Bellamy and he's broken all the records for running."

Flores, who was recently included in The Guardian's 'Next Generation 2020', is currently playing international football for Mexico's under-18s side.

He is also eligible to play for Canada where he was born along with England, as he qualifies through his mother.

Foley made more than 300 league and cup appearances for Colchester between 1971 and 1981 after emerging through the youth ranks at Layer Road.

He was officially included in the club’s Hall of Fame, in 2019.

In addition to his considerable contribution at Colchester as a player and coach, he spent time at Norwich City where he worked at first team, reserve and academy level.

Foley also coached at Ipswich Town and has also supplied his wealth of knowledge at a number of non-league clubs in north Essex and Suffolk.

He is currently assisting with coaching duties at Thurlow Nunn League first division south side Harwich and Parkeston.