It's been a wonderful season for Colchester United so far, and manager John McGreal says leading them to the Quarter-Finals of the Carabao Cup for the first time in 45 years was one of his biggest achievements in management.
Following a remarkable run, the U’s were eventually knocked out by Manchester United, but McGreal says the whole competition was a great experience for the club.
He said: “It was an unbelievable experience for the whole club, we grew into the competition as we went along, the support we received from the fans was incredible.
“The results against Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur were fantastic nights, the respect from Mr Hodgson and Mr Pochettino were unbelievable - before the game, during the game and after the game.
“I would have loved to get another away game, but it was a pleasure to take Colchester United to Old Trafford for the first time in their history, that is a proud moment for me and for the boys as well.
“Taking the club into the Quarter-Finals of the Carabao Cup for the first time in 45 years was one of the proudest moments of my career, things like that will live with me forever.”
Colchester currently sit sixth in the Sky Bet League Two standings and, after missing out on the Play-Off places last season by the narrowest of margins, McGreal has his sights firmly set on a top seven finish.
He added: “We are a very progressive club, we missed out on the Play-Offs last season by a point, even closer really we missed out by two minutes. As a progressive club, the next step for us is to make sure that we get into the Play-Offs this season.
“We had a slow start after a big turn over of players in the summer, some of the academy players coming through and going on to play in higher divisions, it was like starting again, but we had a fantastic run in the Carabao Cup and that gave us a bit of a boost really.
“The club is going in the right direction, we are getting stronger season after season; we are in a healthy position as it stands.”
The U’s were beaten 2-1 last time out by Cambridge United, ending a run of 16 games unbeaten in the league, and McGreal admits every result in the division is vital whether it is a point or three.
He said: “When you are going on an unbeaten run, you can’t wait for the next game to come along. The boys are in training and you can tell they are fixated on the next game; it came to an end against Cambridge but that is our target it again, to go on another run like that.
“As an ex-player you always set out to make sure you come back with the three points; if you can’t, you look at the second best outcome which is a point, and we have done that plenty of times this season, whether it has been three points or one.
“The run we had in the league spanned to just over 100 days, which is a huge achievement for a club like ours - a point in our division tends to put you in a good position, and three points is obviously huge.”
The 47-year-old has been at the Essex-based club for 11 years, across multiple positions, and says building a sustainable model has always been a big part of his job at the Colchester Community Stadium.
He added: “We have put in significant steps in place in so many different areas of the club, there is a specific pathway for academy players to make an impact in the first-team. I have been here for three-and-a-half years as a manager and we have always been competitive.
“I have a fantastic Chairman behind me, a Director of Football as well, who we work really closely with. We have a DNA of how we want to play and what we want to achieve and everyone has bought into that.
“The club needs to be sustainable; we want to get into the Championship, of course we do, but we are going to do it the right way, a way that benefits us in the long run.”