Four players turn down new contracts at Hartlepool United as Luke James, Mark Kitching, Josh Hawkes and Kenton Richardson set to leave with Aaron Cunningham agreeing terms

Hartlepool United’s squad is shaping up to look very different going into the new season as four key players have failed to agree offers to remain at Victoria Park.

Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 2:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 2:23 pm
Luke James of Hartlepool United during the Vanarama National League match between Aldershot Town and Hartlepool United at the EBB Stadium, Aldershot on Saturday 12th October 2019. (Credit: Paul Paxford | MI News)

Luke James, Mark Kitching, Josh Hawkes, Kenton Richardson and Aaron Cunningham were all offered renewed deals at Pools after the 2019-20 National League season was shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Hartlepool manager Dave Challinor has confirmed that Cunningham is the only player who has agreed a new deal, with the others now set to depart.

The club have had to cut costs accordingly due to a lack of revenue or matchday income which resulted in players being offered non-negotiable deals.

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Last season, Pools operated with a playing budget believed to be around £700,000 – this is set to be cut significantly for the 2020-21 campaign.

“The football club is going to be in a very different place in the next 12 to 18 months,” Challinor told The Mail.

“As a result, our budget is going to be significantly reduced on what it was last year.

“We’ve had to make decisions around the offers we make people and I realise that the lads need to make decisions themselves. What I’ve said to them is, the club is in a position to make offers but they’re not really negotiable because we need to know where we stand.

“I’ve had really good conversations with the lads we've made offers to and unfortunately, there will be lads leaving the club.

“We’ve made offers to them and given them time frames and we’re not going to be put into a situation where we make an offer and it stands there forever, I’ve got to be able to move forward and I want people who want to commit to us now.”

On the situation regarding contract discussions over the past month, the Hartlepool manager added: “Kitch was made an offer and the deadline for that has passed so that offer is no longer on the table.

“I had a good chat with Luke last week and he’s been made an offer but he’s got a bit of interest from a Football League club but hasn’t had a concrete offer.

“He wasn't in a position where he thought he could sign what we’d offered him. I explained to him amicably that I can’t hang around and we’ve got to move on so it’s the same situation as Kitch where we now have to move on.

“It’s similar with the lads under 24 who we offered terms of reengagement to. Kenton Richardson and Josh Hawkes will leave the club but we've had Aaron Cunningham agree terms and he’ll be signing a new contract once we get a clear date set for the new season.”

National League clubs have been informed that there are plans to start the 2020-21 campaign in September though an official date is yet to be announced.