Date: 23rd March 2007 at 8:34am
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Two of Colchester`s most senior squad players, Kevin Watson and Karl Duguid, have publicly stated their wish that United retain the services of assistant boss, Mick Hartford, after speculation that he might soon succeed Mike Newell at Luton.

Despite being odds-on favourite to assume Town`s vacant managerial post, Luton have made no approach for Hartford, as revealed in an official statement by Colchester`s chief executive, Marie Partner, on Wednesday.

The players, who have really taken to one-time Rotherham boss Hartford in the nine months since he first arrived in Essex as a coach, have greeted the news that he is set to stay with delight.

They have backed the former Luton man, who was a hero alongside Newell in attack at Kenilworth Road during his playing days, to resist the London club`s overtures.

Midfielder Kevin Watson, speaking in his Evening Gazette column, said yesterday: “We all knew Mick was going to be linked with the Luton manager`s job. [He] is still highly respected at Kenilworth Road and when we played the Hatters [away, in September] he received a massive cheer.

“I don`t know Mick`s feelings, or whether he wants to be a manager again. [He] is a quality guy, a fantastic coach and top man with the players.”

The choice that Hartford is facing, it would seem, is attempting to stave off relegation as new Luton boss – which is by no means unachievable should they want him – or staying with the U`s, alongside Geraint Williams, to continue aiding the side`s development.

Watson`s recent praise for Hartford was reflected in the comments that Colchester United captain Karl Duguid made earlier during the season in the Daily Mail, which were suggestive of Mick`s very positive impact on the team.

Of Hartford, Karl said: “Mick`s the nicest man in the world, but he`s frightening when you first meet him. On matchdays we get him to stand outside when they [the away team] come out. We`ve done it a few times.”