Joe Dunne has faith in departing Cambridge United frontman Uche Ikpeazu

PUBLISHED: 07:01 20 April 2018

Uche Ikpeazu is leaving Cambridge United to head to Hearts. Picture: Keith Heppell

Uche Ikpeazu is leaving Cambridge United to head to Hearts. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

U’s striker backed to come good if called upon

Uche Ikpeazu has been backed to deliver the goods if called upon by Cambridge United.

It was announced this week that the 23-year-old striker had rejected the offer of a new deal at the U’s, and the following day, it was revealed that he had signed a pre-contract agreement with Hearts.

But Ikpeazu is still at the Abbey Stadium until the end of the season, with four matches remaining in Sky Bet League Two.

Interim head coach Joe Dunne was disappointed that Ikpeazu is leaving United, but feels that the quest for goals means that such moves are inevitable.

“I think that’s part and parcel of football now,” said Dunne. “If you’re a successful striker, they are the kind of players that we’re all looking for, if you like.

“We lost Luke [Berry] to Luton, who is a goalscorer. We’re now in a situation where we’re going to lose Uche, who is a goalscorer and this will forever be the case, has forever been the case and will always, in football, be the thing.

“Especially at the level we’re at, it’s always difficult to keep hold of your best players.”

Ikpeazu was released by Watford in the summer of 2016, and arrived at the U’s on trial, impressing enough to earn a short-term deal.

His performances caught the eye of fans and coaching staff alike, and he was offered a longer term deal in November 2016, which expires this summer.

“He came in having been at two or three other places and not really having too many options then,” said Dunne.

“Shaun [Derry] did brilliant to convince him to come to us and a lot of hard work has gone into him from a coaching point of view.

“Shaun, myself and the other members of staff both on and off the pitch have worked really hard with him. There is still a lot of growth left in him.

“I’m disappointed to lose him; disappointed more with the fact that it’s about him, it’s about nurturing him and his development as a person not just only as a player.

“Sometimes Uche can be vulnerable as a young player and that’s why we wanted him here for another period of time so we could help with his own personal development as well because ambition can drive you forward in a positive way or it can destroy you.

“He is now going to a very big club in Scotland, who represent Scottish football exceptionally well and it’s a big step for him.

“He just needs to develop now as a person as well.”

Dunne confirmed that Ikpeazu will remain part of the U’s plans for the rest of the season, despite his pre-contract agreement with Hearts.

“We still pay his wages, he is a Cambridge United player,” said Dunne. “We will expect him, if selected, to play and give his all for Cambridge United, as he has stated.

“If he plays, he is part of a team here and part of a team that at the moment are energised. No-one is bigger than the club, and Uche is part of a good group that we love working with every day.

“If he is asked to play, we expect him to play.

“If we pick him, he will play and we will expect to give his all for the team and the club, and that’s what I’m sure he will do, as he has stated.”

Dunne also stressed that Ikpeazu was not fit to play in the past two games, and the striker’s move away had no influence on team selection.

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