Comment: Rhys Oates' move to Mansfield Town has 'left a sour taste' but Hartlepool United must move on
Rhys Oates’ move to Mansfield Town has left a ‘sour taste,’ but it’s a brutal reminder of what Hartlepool United are up against this season.
Following Luke Armstrong signing for Harrogate Town and now Oates’ departure, Pools have lost two strikers and 32 goals from their National League promotion winning side.
Perhaps the most disappointing part is they haven’t lost them to big clubs but rather mid-table League Two rivals who seem more than capable of financially outgunning Pools, who are already playing catch-up.
Pools had offered Oates a good deal which Challinor was clearly hopeful the player would sign. But football is rarely straightforward and when Mansfield teased a picture of porridge oats on top of their home shirt, the panic soon set in.
It was a move the club knew nothing about which prompted Dave Challinor to make a damning statement once it was confirmed.
"The only slight disappointment from our side of things is the fact Rhys has had no communication with any staff to let us know his thoughts and decision and that leaves a bit of a sour taste,” he told the club website.
Oates had a ‘very, very good offer’ on the table according to the Pools boss but ‘wasn’t willing to back himself,’ suggesting that some potentially lucrative performance related bonuses were included.
Pools and Challinor helped Oates put himself back on the map in footballing terms. The player smashed his career best scoring record of seven with an impressive 17 goal haul, including three in the play-offs to help the club earn promotion.
In that regard, both the club and manager are due more respect and deserved to be informed of the move beforehand – though the player has no obligation to do that.
It’s not a good look and doesn’t paint Oates in the best light. A statement calling him out certainly didn't help the matter.
It’s easy to be romantic about players and their loyalty to football clubs, but money talks.
After being the key driving force behind Pools’ promotion and completing an end of season awards clean sweep, Oates didn’t owe the club anything, other than maybe a phone call.
He’s a 26-year-old trying to make a career for himself at a level where as little as £200 a week can make a huge difference. It’s a short career on modest wages at this level so players will always act in their best interests and not the best interests of the club.
The grass isn’t always greener and Challinor was a manager capable of bringing the best out of Oates. It will be intriguing to see how he manages back in League Two at a new club.
Pools’ understandable reluctance to hand out longer-term deals last season has ultimately come back to haunt them in this instance. Hopefully it’s for the last time.
Oates’ departure is disappointing and some won’t be able to forgive this so-called ‘betrayal’. But his performances finally got the club back to the Football League and that’s what he should be remembered for, even if it is through gritted teeth.