JON De Souza admits Colchester United’s players and staff must all accept responsibility for their League Two struggles last season – and make sure they never find themselves in the same predicament again.

But the U’s director of performance is confident that they can enjoy a much more productive 2021-22 campaign, providing they learn the lessons from last year and recruit wisely, this summer.

Colchester spent the final few months of last season battling to retain their Football League status, before Hayden Mullins guided them to safety in the final eight games.

A host of players have since departed the U’s as they rebuild for the forthcoming campaign, with new signings on the horizon.

De Souza is confident there is a brighter future ahead for Colchester but admits there are areas where they must improve and learn from their struggles, last season.

He said: “We need to be aware of what happened last year and understand that certain aspects of the season were out of our control with the pandemic, which posed us a few problems.

“But there were also certain bits that we need to improve on, regardless of the pandemic.

“As a group of staff, as players and as a football club and me in particular we’ve got to take responsibility for the things that we need to improve on.

“You have to learn from your successes and your failures.

“Ultimately, last season wasn’t successful because we were in a relegation battle for four or five months of the season.

“We have to make sure that we’re fully aware of the potential reasons of why we were in that.

“Some of those reasons were down to the pandemic but I don’t want to use any of those as excuses – if it were purely just down to the pandemic, then that would never happen again.

“We have to make sure that we look into it in detail and understand the things we were unable to control and the things we were able to control and didn’t do well enough at and address those.

“So 100 per cent, we’ve got to learn from what happened last year and we’ll do our utmost to make sure that the club is never in that position again.”


Colchester found themselves embroiled in a relegation battle last season, having reached the League Two play-offs the previous year.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to U’s chairman and owner Robbie Cowling making some tough financial decisions prior to the last campaign, including the decision to allow out-of-contract senior players such as Frank Nouble, Luke Prosser and Ryan Jackson to move on.

De Souza acknowledges that last summer’s player movement had an impact on how Colchester performed – but stressed that must not be used as an excuse for the team’s struggles.

“The chairman was very, very honest from the start of last season that it was going to be a difficult season,” said former Brentford and Luton Town coach De Souza, who has been at Colchester since 2016.

“He made the decision to try and address the final implications as early as possible whereas some may have dealt with them later.

“That has had an effect and as much as I don’t want to use it as an excuse, those financial constraints have not been eliminated because the pandemic is still very much there but have been freed up a little bit, this season.

“If we can add to that with all of the things that we need to improve on and learn from, I’m confident that we can be at the right end of the table next season.


“There was a lot of change, last summer and we lost a lot of senior players.

“We didn’t really add too many senior players into the group and the whole season was disrupted.

"But what I don’t want to do is make excuses, because we weren’t the only team that went through the pandemic.

“I think it’s unfair for me to use the pandemic to much, because there were 23 other teams who also went through it.

“There were a lot of things that were potential reasons and excuses for us under-performing.

"But we have to take responsibility for how we performed throughout the season and we need to do better.

“If people want to use the pandemic as an excuse then it’s 100 per cent there as an excuse.

"But after working in professional football for 16 years, I’m very aware that whenever things go wrong, every club with struggles can always use excuses as to why it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to work out.

“We got certain things wrong, we need to improve on certain things and we need to get better.

“The chairman spoke in February time I think about how we do use that information to value how we perform and although we did start well, we probably started better than our performances suggested.

“And towards the end of the season, I think we were performing better than our results suggested.


“Over a season, it kind of evens itself out but statistically, it shows that we should have finished around 18th, 19th or 20th and we ended up finishing 20th.

"So we finished where we deserved to finish, probably over-performing at the start of the season and under-performing at the end of the season.”