JAMAL Campbell-Ryce always made the most of his chances as a player.

Now he is taking his coaching opportunity at Colchester United with both hands.

The 37-year-old has been working as player-coach in the U’s academy for the past season, his first such role following a successful playing career which included a League One promotion with Colchester in 2006.

Campbell-Ryce says he has enjoyed working and training with the U’s youngsters – and is hoping it is the start of a prosperous coaching career in the game.

Campbell-Ryce said: “It’s been a fantastic experience.

“It was a little bit different to playing on Saturday but for me, it was about passing my playing career knowledge onto the boys and just trying to prepare them for what it would be like to be in the dressing room regularly with first-team players.

“It was good; there were clear frustrations in there at times if results aren’t going well or the team isn’t playing well.

"But that’s just football and I thoroughly enjoyed it working with them and playing with some of the next up and coming talent.

“Talking to players through games just comes naturally to me I think, especially in the last four or five years of my career.

“It’s almost like you become a mentor on the pitch too and try and help them through games, help them do the thing and make the right decisions.

“When you’re sidelines as a coach, you’re giving them instructions and hoping that they go out there and play and deliver.

"But when you’re on the pitch, you’re out there with them trying to help them to make the right decisions, there and then.

“It was different but very enjoyable.

“I think part of the role that Colchester were looking for from me was that I’m still in touch with the game and how modern-day football is played, the speed of it and the understanding of it.

“In ten years’ time, a player coming out of the game going into coaching might be better suited than me for the role, because they’ll just be coming out of the game.

“It’s just what worked at the time and I thank Colchester for the opportunities – it’s been a fantastic experience."

Campbell-Ryce was among the academy-based players the U’s announced would not be retained, back in April.

But the former winger is hoping he can continue at Colchester in a sole coaching role, next season.

He has now formally decided to hang up his boots and bring the curtain down on his successful playing career.

It is the end of an era for Campbell-Ryce, who made nearly 550 appearances for the likes of Sheffield United, Barnsley and Bristol City during an impressive career spanning nearly 20 years.

“Playing is done for me now,” said Campbell-Ryce, who made four appearances for the U's in their 2005-06 promotion season.

“I’ve had a good run of it but I think it’s finally time for me to hang them up now.

“I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve been lucky and there’s been many ups and downs but I’m thankful to the game of football for the life it’s blessed me with and all of the things and places I’ve experienced.

“It’s been fantastic and I have some great memories.”

Campbell-Ryce was a double League One promotion winner with both Colchester and Southend in the 2005-06 season, having had loan spells at both clubs from Rotherham United.

He played in the Premier League for Charlton Athletic as a teenager and featured in English football’s top four division, while also playing 18 times for Jamaica.

Campbell-Ryce added: “Playing for Jamaica and representing my country was amazing.

“It’s an accolade that every player would love to have and that was fantastic.

“Never in a million years did I dream that I’d be an international but I was.

“We had some great cup runs at the likes of Sheffield United and Southend where we beat some big teams and playing for Barnsley, where we beat Chelsea and Liverpool on our way to the FA Cup semi-finals when we played at Wembley and lost out to Cardiff, which was unfortunate.

“I’ve played against Spurs a few times and beaten Manchester United with Southend at Roots Hall.

“I’ve got so many great memories that stand out in my head that I can reel off.

“I’ve got some fantastic memories that I’m forever grateful for.

“I think I’ll reflect on my playing career with my boys when I’m a little bit older - and I’ll talk them to death on how good I was!”