Colchester United skipper Dean Hammond is in talks with Coca-Cola League One rivals Southampton.

The U's have already turned down two written offers for their captain, who joined them from Brighton and Hove Albion in January, 2008 for a fee of £250,000.

However, the U's have now accepted an offer from the Saints and the Hastings-born midfielder is now set for a move to the South Coast.

Hammond is out of contract at the end of the season at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

U's chairman Robbie Cowling said: "It would be easy for me to claim that Dean's impending transfer was the last act of a departing manager, but that would be totally untrue.

"Just as it would be untrue for anyone to claim that Paul left because his best players were being allowed to leave.

"I alone made the decision to allow Dean to move to Southampton and I did so because Dean was out of contract at the end of the season and he did not want to extend his stay with the U's beyond that time.

"Dean has been a fantastic player for Colchester United, but the fee I have received for him will allow the club to go out and find a worthy replacement that will also be here for next season and the one after that."

"If I had insisted that he stayed, we would have received no fee and next season we would have lost his services anyway.

"I turned down numerous verbal bids and two written bids before I finally agreed to sell him late on Monday night."

For more on this story, see the Gazette website and tomorrow's Gazette.