EXPERIENCED duo Andy Monkhouse and Simon Walton have been released by Hartlepool United as Colin Cooper looks to rebuild his squad.
The pair have more than 750 career appearances between them but were last night deemed surplus to requirements at Victoria Park for next season’s assault on Sky Bet League Two.
Pools last night released a total of four players, with striker Zak Boagey and midfielder Greg Rutherford, both 19, the others to be shown the exit door.
Cooper’s side finished a disappointing 19th this season and while Monkhouse and Walton’s experience in a young side was invaluable at times, they have become the biggest casualties of the 2013-14 campaign.
Supporters will be boosted, however, by the news 16-goal top scorer Luke James, 19, is to remain, while 18-year-old star Brad Walker is also still under contract.
The highly-rated youngsters have both been attracting interest from a number of Premiership and Championship clubs this season.
Cooper had stressed it will be a case of “evolution, rather than revolution” while he was in charge and that stance has been reflected with just two first team regulars axed.
Boagey didn’t appear for Pools this term, while Rutherford made one sub appearance.
But both Monkhouse, 33, and 26-year-old Walton had played more than 40 matches this season and may well have expected to have done enough to earn a new deal.
Yet Cooper has moved to get the high earners off the wage bill as he looks to re-mould his first team.
On-loan Manchester United stars Jack Barmby, Middlesbrough’s Christian Burgess and Sunderland duo Scott Harrison and Connor Oliver have all returned to their respective clubs, which means Pools are now down to a first team squad of just 17 players.
That includes several yet to put pen to paper on new deals as talks with veteran defender Sam Collins, Neil Austin, forward James Poole and club captain Antony Sweeney remain ongoing.
Cooper, therefore, will no doubt be looking to bring in a number of new signings, with the money saved from Monkhouse and Walton’s contracts helping to do that.
A club statement read: “The chairman and everyone at the club would like to thank all of the players for their services and commitment to the club, and wish them all the very best for the future.”
Meanwhile, Pools also announced they have exercised the options on Jack Compton, Michael Duckworth, Scott Flinders, Jonathan Franks, Darren Holden, Luke James, Andy Rafferty, Jordan Richards and Josh Rowbotham for next season.
Experienced striker Marlon Harewood and Young Player of the Year Brad Walker also remain under contract with Pools for next term.
A club statement added: “Discussions are continuing with other remaining first team players and more information will be made available in due course.”
Cooper held a final meeting with the first team squad at Victoria Park yesterday afternoon before releasing the players for their summer break.
Monkhouse joined the club from Swindon Town in January 2007 after spending a couple of months on loan before then-boss Danny Wilson made it a permanent move for the Yorkshireman.
The versatile forward had appeared in 42 matches for Pools this season, the majority of which came on the left-hand side of midfield, scoring six times which made him joint second-top scorer.
In total, Leeds-born Monkhouse played 331 times for the club, scoring 52 goals and helped win automatic promotion to League One in the 2006-07 campaign.
Popular with the fans, he always boasted a good goal return but that has now been brought to an end.
Meanwhile, Leeds-born Walton has spent the past two seasons at Pools, turning out 46 times and scoring three goals in the season just ended.
Many fans expressed surprise that he had been released from the club as he had transformed himself from last season’s pantomime villain with much-improved performances.
Walton’s disciplinary record let him down towards the end of the season though with red cards against Oxford United and Morecambe on Easter Monday.
The imposing midfielder signed in the summer of 2012 after being released from his contract by Plymouth Argyle.
Walton started his career at Leeds United before securing a £500,000 transfer to Charlton Athletic.
From there Walton - who was voted runner-up in the Players’ Player of the Year awards this season - went onto play for Queens Park Rangers and Plymouth and several clubs on loan.
During his time at the Clarence Road club, Walton made 83 appearances for Pools, scoring four goals and has 262 career appearances to his name.
The remaining Pools players - and any new arrivals - will return to pre-season training at the club’s Maiden Castle base in Durham on July 1.