COLCHESTER United favourite Kevin Watson has admitted he would relish the chance to return as manager.

The Gazette understands the former midfielder has applied for the vacant role at the League Two club.

The U's are on the lookout for a new manager after parting company with John McGreal on July 14.

Assistant boss Steve Ball and Maldon and Tiptree manager Wayne Brown are thought to be favourites to take over.

However, Watson, most recently in charge at National League side Ebbsfleet United, is thought to have thrown his hat into the ring.

"I've always wanted to return to the club," said the 46-year-old, who made over 100 appearances for the U's and was a key figure in the side that won promotion to the Championship in 2006.

"It's a job I've always wanted and it's an ambition of mine to manage Colchester.

"I had great success at the club and I've got such fond memories.

"I know what a dressing room needs to be successful.

"And on a personal note, I feel I'm in the best position I've ever been in.

"I've been a manager and an assistant and feel I've served my apprenticeship.

"I know my stuff and know the game inside out.

"I feel confident I could add something to the club, if the chance were to come my way."

Colchester chairman Robbie Cowling said 'significant changes' are required after parting company with head coach McGreal.

He revealed the first team will be more 'tightly aligned' with the academy, in which he has invested considerably over the years.

Watson says he would relish that challenge and added: "I fully understand, respect and appreciate the way the club works and wouldn't have any concerns. Absolutely not.

"I'm used to working with young players and dealing with budgets.

"Ebbsfleet was a baptism of fire in that respect but it really furthered my education as a manger.

"My record stands up well and our form towards the end of the season was even better than (champions) Barrow's.

"We were forever improving and I enjoyed my time there immensely.

"When I joined, the club had ten points from 16 games but we finished on 42.

"It worked out at two points a game and we were flying.

"It was quite a shock to leave but I'm not going to bad-mouth the club, because they gave me a chance."

Watson, an A Licence coach, helped Colchester finish tenth in their first season in the Championship.

He was released at the end of the 2007-08 season and signed on a free transfer for Luton Town.