COLCHESTER United chairman Robbie Cowling has warned Charlton that they will have to make an ‘extremely large’ offer if they are to tempt him into selling defender Magnus Okuonghae.

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The EADT understands that the Addicks – who finished three places below Colchester in League One last season – have tested the water with a low-level six figure bid.

“It was turned down immeditely,” said Cowling. “Magnus is one of our best players and there is no doubt that we want to keep him for many years to come.”

The problem is that the 25-year-old, who grew up in south London, is now entering the last year of his contract.

Cowling is wary of that – especially as he had to cash in on defender Marc Tierney and Paul Reid in January to prevent them leaving for nothing – but nevertheless remains fiercely determined to keep his man.

“You can never say never just because of the contract situation, but to be honest it would have to be an extremely large offer just to tempt us.

“At the moment Charlton are nowhere near that and I can’t see them getting anywhere near it.”

Charlton boss Chris Powell will be backed by the club’s new owners to completely rebuild his squad this summer in an attempt to get the south London club promoted back into the Championship following a two-year absence.

A source close to the club has told the EADT that they fully expect an improved bid to be forthcoming.

“I’m delighted with the way Robbie has handled this,” said U’s boss John Ward, who returned back to his desk at The Weston Homes Community Stadium yesterday following a two week break.

“He didn’t even disturb me with it while I was away – he just rejected it straight away.

“Magnus is on course to return for pre-season and will be like a new signing for us. He did superbly in his first season with us and we can’t wait to have him back in the team.”

Signed by Paul Lambert for a fee of around £45,000 from Dagenham & Redbridge in 2009, Okuongahe has proved to be a bargain buy. Despite his previous experience having been in non-league and League Two, he instantly took to League One football and ended up skippering the side under Aidy Boothroyd.

Surgery on a blood flow problem in his foot just before Christmas cut short his second campaign at the club.

However, following rehabilitation work in Lilleshall, he has made rapid progress and is on course for a return to action during the club’s pre-season tour of Holland next month.

MAGNUS OKUONGHAE

AGE: 25 (Feb 16, 1986)

BORN: Nigeria

– Moves to England as a child. Attends school in south London.

– Three seasons at Fulham, one as a pro, but doesn’t play.

– Comes through the ranks at Rushden & Diamonds and plays a season in League Two.

– Drops down to non-league and plays for Aldershot, St Albans City and Crawley.

– Returns to League Two with Dagenham & Redbridge. Impresses in his second season there as Daggers finish eighth.

– Signed by Colchester for £45,000 and has superb debut season in League One.

– Foot injury keeps him out for most of season just gone.

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