Retained List 2023: Departing Heroes

It’s always a bittersweet day as the retained list is announced, with some favourite faces saying goodbye to the Abbey. @vinylperez takes a look at who’s staying and who’s going over the summer.

We already know the following players will be turning out in Amber & Black next season as they’re already under contract: Will Mannion, James Holden, Michael Morrison, Zeno Ibsen Rossi, Jubril Okedina, Brandon Haundstrup, Liam Bennett, James Brophy, Adam May, Jack Lankester & Saikou Janneh.

With our status in League One assured for 23/24 we knew a big rebuild was needed, as a result that meant saying goodbye to some long-serving players, and legends of the lockdown promotion season. The club announced the departure of captain Greg Taylor first, according him the respect he deserved as an integral part of two promotion seasons, one FA Trophy success and over a decade in the Amber and Black.

Another long-standing player leaving is Liam O’Neil – someone who’s always divided opinion amongst the fanbase, but who has always been a committed player and an impressive performer on the pitch. Liam played almost 170 times for United since signing in 2016, a figure that would almost certainly have been higher had it not been for numerous injuries during his spell at the club. We’ll never forget those goals against Port Vale and Grimsby in the Promotion season.

With the departure of goalkeeper Dimi Mitov the chapter on pre-Mark Bonner signings is closed, with no-one bar Harrison Dunk remaining at the club from before Bonner’s spell in charge. Mitov spent five years at the Abbey, improving constantly to the point where he is now knocking on the door of an international call-up for Bulgaria. Mitov’s finest moment came against Newcastle in the FA Cup, his last-minute wonder-save winning the tie for the U’s.

The other hero of the day at Newcastle was obviously Joe Ironside. Having spent three years at the club one of the saddest things of the past few seasons is watching Joe struggle to capture the form that made him one of the most exciting strikers in League One. Forming a sensational partnership with Paul Mullin during the promotion season, Joe continued to perform in League One the following campaign, scoring important goals along the way, notably at Portman Road.

We also say goodbye to strikers Sam Smith and Harvey Knibbs, both of whom will go on to bigger things no doubt. Smith initially joined on loan in 2019-20, which was Knibbs’ first season at the club. After impressing during his loan spell Smith joined Cheltenham where he won promotion to League One before returning to the Abbey to become top scorer over the past two seasons. Knibbs joined as a youngster and immediately won favour with the U’s faithful scoring the winning penalty against Brentford in the League Cup on his debut. His exciting performances in a number of positions across the attack means he leaves the club as a true fans favourite.

George Williams has been another fans favourite in his time at the club, filling the big boots of Kyle Knoyle after promotion Williams endeared himself to the fans with some top performances, and top shithousery, plus the occassional goal. Only the emergence of Liam Bennett has meant George found game time hard to come by this season.

His defensive partner Lloyd Jones is another one who will almost certainly make an upwards move next, a strong central defender who’s comfortable with the ball at his feet Jones went on an impressive mini-goalscoring run this season to help our survival. Not even an own-goal against P*sh can tarnish his reputation at the Abbey.

Ben Worman leaves United in search of regular first-team football, having been at the club since the age of eight. Having made over 50 appearances for the U’s he remains our youngest ever player.

Finally, Shilow Tracey, an exciting winger he joined on loan during the promotion season where he scored a memorable goal against Leyton Orient. Another player who matured under Bonner’s tutelage, Tracey always looked to get forward and create chances for the attackers.

Connor McGrandles and Steve Seddon return to their parent clubs following impressive loan spells, and no-one would be upset if either of them returned to the Abbey next season.

All these players have proved themselves legends at United over the years, and leave with our best wishes. They should all be worthy of a great reception at the Abbey if they return next season, unless it’s with P*sh.

Contracts have been offered to Harrison Dunk and Paul Digby, who we’d be surprised if they didn’t sign (not to mention devastated in Dunk’s case), Ryan Bennett, plus Fejiri Okenabirhie and George Thomas who if they can get over their injury problems can be real assets next season.

2 thoughts on “Retained List 2023: Departing Heroes

Add yours

  1. I love this
    Great summary of the retained list! It’s always sad to say goodbye to long-serving players, but it’s exciting to see the new signings and the potential for the next season. Best of luck to all the players moving on!


  2. The club will need an absolute worldy of a transfer window if they are to be competitive at this level next season. Or maybe they’ll put a greater accent on youth and take what comes in terms of league placing if it means developing our own young talent. Difficult to see them competing for experienced signings given the number of clubs, including some coming up from L2 and some who will still be at that level, who will potentially be after the same players. Our recruitment record is very mixed, as last summer and to an extent, January, when struggling to recruit attacking players showed. Bonner will need to be at his persuasive best to recruit competitively. Their strategy of last summer with minimal strengthening clearly backfired and set the tone for the challenges of the season just gone. January, they did well with defensive recruitment but were clearly scrambling for attackers. Let’s hope this summer’s recruitment is more strategic.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: