DARREN Smith says is relishing the responsibility handed to him by Colchester United’s interim head coach Hayden Mullins.

The U’s goalkeeping coach has had plenty of input since Mullins was appointed in caretaker charge last month, as the club have strived to confirm their League Two status.

Having previously worked alongside Steve Ball and Wayne Brown during their spells in charge this season, Smith has now linked up with Mullins and advisor Paul Tisdale over recent games.

And in addition to his position as keeper coach, he has played a prominent role on matchday both in pre-match preparations and in the technical area, during games.

The former Ipswich Town head of academy goalkeeping says he has enjoyed being part of the U’s coaching team, as they bid to finish a difficult campaign on a high.


Smith said: “I’ve really enjoyed the extra responsibility, over the last couple of weeks.

“It’s been a little bit different, coming to the club working with Bally and John McGreal, then Bally has done it with Hayden, then it was with Browny and obviously now with Tis coming in – but I’ve really enjoyed it.

“I’m happy to do anything to help Hayden out and to help Tis out.

“We’re a good team and we all want the same goal – we all want the club to stay in the league so that we can build again, next year.

“It’s obviously been a tough season, with the way the results have gone.

“It’s not because of a lack of effort from everyone.

“With Hayden taking over, he’s brought a real calmness to the group and really tried to take the pressure away from the lads because it has been a pressure cooker, at times.

“With Tis coming in, it’s worked great with the tactical side of it and we’re playing a good brand of football.

“The run of form that we’ve been on has been tough for everyone.

“We’ve tried our hardest in every game to try and pick up points and it’s been tough at times.

“We’ve had some bad results but it’ll be nice to win at home to Salford on Saturday and get it done.”

Smith has worked closely with Colchester’s first-team goalkeepers Dean Gerken, Shamal George and Callum Coulter, this season.

George was in fine form in the U’s 1-0 defeat at Cheltenham Town last weekend and Smith says the former Liverpool youngster has made progress, this season.

“Sham did great and he’s done fantastic in every game that he’s played,” added Smith, who joined Colchester in the summer of 2019.

“I said to him in the summer that it’ll be a big thing for him, if he can get Dean out of the team.

“Luckily for Sham – and unluckily for Gerks who has picked up a couple of injuries this year – he’s had his chance.

“He’s certainly kicked on this year and Sham has been brilliant.

“He made some great saves (against Cheltenham) and when you look at our goal difference and where we are in the league, those saves are critical.

“One of the biggest things as a goalkeeper is concentration, because you can be out of the game for 80-odd minutes and all of a sudden, you’re needed to make a save.

“You have to be fully on it and hope the ball doesn’t come near you but if it does, be ready!”