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Club News

2023 Retained List published

12 May 2023

Club News

2023 Retained List published

12 May 2023

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Cambridge United can now publish its Retained List following post-season meetings between First Team Players and Management…

"Today we say goodbye to some legends of this Club," Mark Bonner said. "Some - who we would loved to have kept - want to seek other opportunities. Others, it is my decision to release. But all of them leave with our huge thanks, respect and best wishes."

In addition to the already-announced departure of Greg Taylor, nine other previously permanently contracted players are leaving the Club – Liam O’Neil, Dimitar Mitov, Harvey Knibbs, Joe Ironside, Sam Smith, Shilow Tracey, George Williams, Lloyd Jones and Ben Worman.

Ryan Bennett, Harrison Dunk, Paul Digby, George Thomas and Fejiri Okenabirhie have been offered a new contract.

All departing players have made a considerable impact whilst with the U’s. Five are Club centurions and all nine have made more than 50 appearances. All featured in either the Club’s promotion season to League One, the famous FA Cup win at Newcastle and this year’s Great Escape.

Liam O’Neil is the longest serving member of the squad to leave, having signed for the Club ahead of the 2016/17 season. Born nearby in Swavesey, O’Neil has made 167 appearances for the U’s and will forever be celebrated for scoring the opening goal in the promotion-decider against Grimsby Town on the final day of the 2020/21 season. A community champion, O’Neil was often leading with the way within the First Team squad to support Cambridge United Foundation and won the 2017/18 Sky Bet League Two PFA Player in the Community.

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Dimitar Mitov has been with the Club since 2017/18 and has been United’s #1 for the past five seasons, racking up 165 appearances. His crowning moment came in the match against Newcastle, with a breath-taking performance to keep the Premier League side at bay. Mitov won the Player of the Season award in 2021/22, the Club’s first year back in the third tier for two decades.

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After joining the U’s as a 20-year-old ahead of the 2019/20 season, Harvey Knibbs went on to make 156 appearances, scoring 26 goals. A lockdown legend and member of the Newcastle heroes, Knibbs’ selfless attitude for the good of the team was arguably his greatest asset and he will be fondly remembered by supporters for playing a key role in many of the Club’s recent successes.

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Joe Ironside leaves having made 145 appearances and scoring 35 goals since his move from Macclesfield in 2020, instantly becoming a fans favourite with his tireless work leading the line. A vital part in the Club’s promotion into League One, Ironside has a number of marquee moments with the U’s to his name, including a double at Leyton Orient to move the U’s one step away from promotion, the winning goal at St James’ Park, a perfect hat-trick at Cheltenham and scoring the only goal against Ipswich to win at Portman Road.

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United’s top goal scorer for the past two seasons, Sam Smith, departs the Club after finding the net 43 times in 143 appearances. After originally joining on loan in 2019/20, Smith returned with the U’s in League One and worked his way to become the team’s leading marksman. His role in last season’s survival bid will always be remembered, as he scored seven goals in the last nine games to help lift the Club to safety.


Originally joining the Club on loan in the January of the League Two promotion season, Shilow Tracey signed a permanent deal in the summer of 2021 and played a big part in the U’s highest league finish since 1994. A constant threat to opposition defences whenever he was on the pitch, Tracey leaves just ten games shy of a century on 90 appearances.

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George Williams signed from Bristol Rovers in 2021, as the Club were set to embark on their League One journey. Making 83 appearances across the two years, William’s passion and endeavour on the pitch saw him quickly win favour with the supporters as he established himself as a reliable presence at right-back.

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Lloyd Jones leaves after 67 games and two fine years with the U’s, where he immediately asserted himself as one of Mark Bonner’s primary centre-backs with his defensive qualities and ball-playing abilities. An outstanding individual season in 2022/23 earned him Player of the Year honours.

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Finally, Ben Worman leaves the Club he has been with since the age of eight and is a shining example to all young players inside the United Academy system. Worman became the U’s youngest ever player to take part in a competitive First Team fixture at the age of 16 and has made 52 First Team appearances.

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Conor McGrandles and Steve Seddon return to their parent Clubs following the expiration of their loan spells and we would like to wish both players all the best and thank them for their contributions.

Please find confirmation of the full Retained List below:

  • Departing the club at the conclusion of their contract on 30/06/23: Greg Taylor, Liam O’Neil, Dimitar Mitov, Harvey Knibbs, Joe Ironside, Sam Smith, Shilow Tracey, George Williams, Lloyd Jones, Ben Worman
  • Players offered a new contract at the conclusion of their contract on 30/06/23: Ryan Bennett, Harrison Dunk, Paul Digby, George Thomas, Fejiri Okenabirhie
  • Player under contract beyond 30/06/23: Will Mannion, James Holden, Liam Bennett, Jubril Okedina, Zeno Ibsen Rossi, Michael Morrison, Mamadou Jobe, Brandon Haunstrup, Adam May, Lewis Simper, Jack Lankester James Brophy, Saikou Janneh
  • U21s under contract: Harvey Beckett, Saleem Akanbi, Glenn McConnell, Kai Yearn, Louis Chadwick
  • Loans to Return to Parent Clubs at the end of the season: Steve Seddon, Conor McGrandles

Head Coach Mark Bonner said, "This season’s list sees many players depart the Club who have made significant impacts over many years and who have contributed greatly to our successes in recent seasons, including this last one. I could talk endlessly on each of them, crediting them for everything from ability, performance, personality and character, but in short, we would not have achieved all that we have without them.

“As is often the case, football works in cycles and this is a sliding doors moment from one cycle to another. It has been clear to us for a large part of the season that it was inevitable we would see some players leaving despite many conversations around our desire for them to stay.

“Some will have earned opportunities to further their careers beyond us and we wish them every success in securing those moves. In other cases, it is my decision to turn over the squad and create a refresh and restart the process of building a new team to face the challenges of League One football next season.

“I believe we will look back and remember these players for all of the right reasons. They do not deserve to be remembered for anything other than the countless highlights they have given us and for them, I am delighted the weekend ended in the way that it did.

“Each of their stories within the Club is unique, but all these players have developed with us and helped create the culture within the team that exists. I hope they will look back in the future and remember fondly their time at the Club, having had some of their career highlights with us. I am grateful to them for their support, loyalty and work ethic.

“From local boys, Academy graduates, long-term servants, lockdown legends, Cup giant killers and Great Escape artists, I am proud to have led these players and proud of them for what they have given us. They leave us better than when they found us, and for that we will be forever grateful.

“On top of their on-pitch contributions, they have above all been top men who have given their all for us. We cannot have asked for more than that.

“We are grateful too to Charlton Athletic and Oxford United for their support with Conor and Steve, and thank them for their excellent contributions also.

“Work is underway regarding contract offers and the recruitment of next seasons squad and we will be working to add a number of new signings to improve the starting team and depth of the squad."

Further details on the outcomes of players who have been offered contracts will be released in due course.

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