JAMIE Cureton says he would happily play for Colchester United for free if he was given the opportunity to return to the club.

The 45-year-old striker said he would not hesitate returning to his former club, after a group of U’s fans launched a cheeky attempt to lure him back - and raise vital cash for charity.

A band of Colchester supporters have set up a Crowdfunder fundraiser in a bid to lure the current Enfield player-manager back to the U’s one last time, with cash raised split three ways between the Children’s Ward, any Colchester General Hospital Covid-19 response and the Colchester United Football in the Community Trust, subject to application approval.

And Cureton, who memorably won the Championship Golden Boot with the U’s in 2006-07, says he would not think twice about returning – should the opportunity ever arise.

Cureton said: “I’d definitely play for Colchester for nothing!

“If ever I was given the opportunity to play league football again or go back to a club that I’ve done well at, I wouldn’t bat an eye lid if someone offered me the chance to sit on the bench and witness professional football again.

“When you come out of the league and get to a certain age, you don’t really ever think about it again.

“I wouldn’t turn it down, without a doubt.

“It was a bit surprising to hear about it but it was a very nice touch to hear that the fans would welcome me back and it was for a very good cause as well raising some money for charity, especially in the times we’re in.

“I was really shocked – I didn’t really know how to respond to it, to be honest!

“It’s a great gesture and the ultimate thing is to raise money.

“Since I dropped out of the league, I’ve played five seasons now in non-league at various different levels.

“Apart from the two seasons that have been cut short I suppose, I’ve scored 20-plus goals in all of them.

“I’ve kept myself fit and still thoroughly enjoying playing.

“When I dropped out of the league, I trained at Colchester for a little bit of pre-season with Browny (Wayne Brown) and the 23s until I found my next move into non-league.

“I’ve always kept myself fit and enjoyed playing – thankfully, I’ve still been performing and doing well.

“I suppose the fact that I’m still fit and haven’t retired plays into people’s thoughts.”

Cureton says his outstanding 2006-07 campaign for Colchester, where he hit 23 goals to help them achieve their highest-ever finish of tenth place in the Championship, is one of his most special seasons.

“It was one my best seasons in terms of individual performance and achievement as a club, to finish where we did in the Championship, with the results we picked up along the way,” said Cureton, who has notched up more than 1,000 career appearances and scored nearly 400 goals along the way.

“To be going into the final few games with the chance of getting into the play-offs was unbelievable really.

“You have to look at the squad and what they all went on to do.

“Most of them moved on and had good careers playing higher and everything sort of moved on from there, with the new stadium and the way that the club is run a bit more with youth and trying to promote players.

“I speak to those players a lot and it was a special time.

“It was a special time for the fans as well, to see the club mixing it with teams who are now in the Premier League and turning them over and going to all of the grounds we went to – it was a really special time.”

Cureton is currently player-manager at Essex Senior League outfit Enfield FC, whose season is currently suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I started the season as a player-coach and then the manager left and I’ve taken over managing and playing,” said Cureton, who reached his special 1,000-game milestone last year while playing for Bishop's Stortford in the Isthmian League.

“I stepped aside a little bit from the playing side even though I was still eligible to play and just managed a bit really.

“That will continue but the league has obviously been cut short and if it doesn’t start up again, we’ll obviously start back next season.

“I’d have thought that our level, the season will be null and void again a bit like they did last year and then it will hopefully restart again, in August.

“There’s been no announcement yet but as time ticks on and by the time they’d look to start back, I don’t think you’d get the games in.

“I would assume that it’ll be a case of restarting again, next year.

“It’s really good experience and I really enjoying managing.

“I’ve coached a lot since coming out of football and I’ve coached at Arsenal’s youth academy and did two to three years there with the kids.

“I’ve enjoyed that but on the management side, I’ve quite enjoyed putting the team together and tactics.

“I probably enjoy managing more than coaching and it’s been good.

“I’ll continue to do that; non-league’s been very good since I’ve come out of the full-time game.

"It’s nice to give something back and hopefully build a squad at Enfield that we can maybe get a promotion.

“That’s the plan and the people behind the scenes want to get Enfield up a couple of leagues and see where we go from there.

“I do enjoy the management side.

“I think this is the first year really at Enfield where the sponsors have come in and the backing has been there.

“It’s well-structured now and it’s not a flash in the pan.

“The plan is to try and get Enfield up to at least the Isthmian League where they were and to look to go from there.”

Cureton says he is trying to maintain his levels of fitness as much as he can, during the current lockdown.

“I trying to tick over and keep as fit as possible,” added the U’s Hall of Famer, who made his Premier League debut with Norwich City back in 1994.

“It’s quite easy to drop into a situation where you know you didn’t really have to and step away and do nothing.

“But I’ve always liked to keep myself fit and active, so like everyone else I suppose you just try and do what you can and try and get as much fresh air as possible.”

To contribute to the U’s supporters’ Crowdfunding bid to bring Jamie Cureton back to Colchester United, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/charity-call-bring-back-curo