Veteran leaving Hartlepool Utd?

PAUL Murray could be forced to leave Hartlepool United before the end of the month in a bid to find first-team football.

The 36-year-old – last season voted players’ player of the year – has found himself out of the side under John Hughes.

The Pools boss is keen to reduce the wage bill in an effort to bring in his own players over the coming weeks.

Murray is one of several who could be headed for pastures new, with SportMail understanding there has been interest in Sam Collins, Andy Monkhouse and Steve Howard.

Hughes is a big admirer of veteran anchorman Murray, but admits he may have to look elsewhere in his quest for regular action.

“Muzza is one you want around the place and in your dressing room,” Hughes told us ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Shrewsbury Town (kick off 3pm).

“He is a trooper and is everything you want in your team.

“He never misses training, he’s snarling, he’s biting and he demands off others on the training pitch.

“But there’s an understanding that, if he’s not playing, he’ll not be a happy chappy. I’m quite sure he wants to go and play football, so it’s something we might have to look at in the window.”

Murray has been kept out of the team by a combination of Ritchie Humphreys and Simon Walton, while Neil Austin is likely to come in to the engine-room this weekend.

And Hughes went on: “We’ve got options in there – Ritchie has been doing well, I want to see what Simon has got and Aussie can go in there as well.

“Aussie can give us better legs in there. It’s a case of seeing what you have and giving everyone a chance.”