Colchester have signed promising youngster Tom Aldred as John Ward looks to continue his policy of developing youth at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.
Aldred, 20, agreed a cancellation of his contract with Watford and joined the U's as a free agent on deadline day - and Ward hopes the young defender can fulfil his potential in Essex.
"His contract at Watford has been settled by them and he becomes a free agent, so we have signed him on that basis today," said the U's boss.
"He did very well at Carlisle and got his move to Vicarage Road but it hasn't quite worked out for him there.
"We have got ourselves a hard working young man who will be ready for first team action, but will need time to settle in here."
A former Carlisle trainee, Aldred has been well travelled in his fledgling career so far, having also spent spells on loan with Workington, Stockport and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
And Ward is pleased to offer Aldred a base to further his development and believes he has what it takes to become an important player for Colchester.
"We are trying to develop young players here and Richard Hall was a centre half in his career so, as a coach, he will be able to offer Tom plenty of knowledge along the way," he added.
"Tom has travelled around a lot so far and has shown a real willingness to play and he is a young man determined to get going here at Colchester United."