Hartlepool United caretaker manager Michael Nelson on why he does not blame players still to sign contracts including former Sunderland striker and ex-Norwich City defender

Hartlepool United caretaker boss Michael Nelson admits he has no influence over negotiations with players still to commit their future at the Suit Direct Stadium but has issued no blame over their contract stalemate.

By Joe Ramage
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 4:45 pm

The search for Graeme Lee’s successor continues after the club announced his exit ahead of the final game of the season with Colchester United in which Nelson and Antony Sweeney were left in interim charge.

Following their final day defeat Nelson revealed he was unclear on his own future with the club but would continue to give everything until told otherwise but has suggested contract discussions may fall outside of that remit.

Since the conclusion of the season, Pools have secured extensions to both goalkeeper Ben Killip and striker Joe Grey’s current deals, with both players agreeing further one-year stays at the Suit Direct Stadium.

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Hartlepool United caretaker manager Michael Nelson gave his thoughts on players yet to agree new deals at the Suit Direct Stadium. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

They added to news of Tom Crawford and David Ferguson, who both agreed two-year extensions before the end of the campaign going into next season, but there remain several players still to pen new deals.

Luke Molyneux, Timi Odusina and Mark Shelton are three of those players still to commit to the club and Nelson believes news on their futures may have to wait until the new manager is appointed and has assessed what he wants from the current squad.

“I’ve got no influence or no part in the negotiations so I don’t know where the club are with them,” Nelson told The Mail.

“I don’t know whether a new manager coming in will change the goalposts or have different opinions.

Luke Molyneux is still to agree a new deal with Hartlepool United. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

“The club, I’m sure, are working tirelessly to get the right man in charge and then the process will start with who he wants to keep and who he wants to bring in in terms of recruitment in the summer.”

Despite the delay in reaching a conclusion with players who the club opened talks with as early as February, Nelson has not criticised any of those players and their decisions.

Instead, the former Pools defender insists players are within their right to run down their contracts in order to seek the best possible outcome for their future.

“Do you think there's a great deal of loyalty in football at times?” Nelson asked.

Timi Odusina enjoyed a strong season for Hartlepool United. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

“Lads have got the right to run their contracts down. They’ve got the right to ask for a certain amount of money.

“If a club, and I’m not saying that this has happened, but if a football club doesn’t want to pay a player that amount of money and that player doesn’t want to sign for the amount of money the football club are wanting to offer, then that player won’t sign. It’s as simple as that.

“If that player wants to play at the highest level, and has higher clubs interested in them and they’ve done well enough to go and test themselves at that level, then fair play to them. They’ve earned the right to have that interest from clubs higher up the divisions.”

One of those players who has earned interest from higher up the divisions is Luke Molyneux.

The 24-year-old enjoyed his best season to date leading the club’s scoring charts with 12 for the campaign after taking over the mantle left by last season’s top scorers Rhys Oates and Luke Armstrong.

But former Sunderland striker Molyneux is one of those who has been in negotiations with the club for several months now over his future with no agreement yet being reached.

Molyneux has been attracting the attention of club’s in the Scottish Premiership and from League One in England, although Portsmouth will not be one of those clubs after reports from the south coast claimed Pompey boss Danny Cowley won't be following up his initial interest in Molyneux having watched him in action in Pools’ defeat at Northampton Town in March.

And the striker only enhanced his stock when scooping a hat-trick of awards at Pools’ player of the year ceremony including player of the year and fans’ player of the year awards.

But Nelson understands the situation the likes of Molyneux find themselves in, highlighting his own playing career by suggesting he was always keen to play at the highest level he could.

“I was always a firm believer of that and I did it as a player,” said Nelson.

“I wanted to play at the highest level and I wanted to play for as long as I could. I had options at 35, 36, 37-years-old to play in non-league football in the North East and I chose to sign for Barnet on similar money because Barnet were a League Two football club. And I wanted to play in League Two and play at the highest level I could.

“So if that’s their motivation then fair play to them. Go and test yourself and go and play at the highest level.

“But I go back to it, until both parties agree nothing will get done and there’ll be people who will say the player is wrong, there’ll be people who say the club are wrong. Much like when a manager goes. Some will agree, some will disagree. It’s all about opinions and unfortunately you’ll never please people all of the time.

“I spoke about it when Graeme had COVID, deals will only get done if both parties agree. Tom Crawford and the football club agreed. David Ferguson and the football club have agreed. Now there’s other players who have had good offers from the football club, good offers, and they haven’t agreed.”