Who will stay and who will go?
The words on the tip of the tongue of most Hartlepool United fans since the day Matthew Bates was announced as the club’s new manager.
Many wanted him to be bold in his selections, break free from the shackles of old, and together with director of football Craig Hignett he’s certainly not been shy in shaking things up with his first major decision since walking through the door.
While Ryan Catterick, Josh Hawkes, Scott Loach, Carl Magnay, Kenton Richardson and Aaron Cunningham will remain for 2018/19 and Michael Woods and Lewis Hawkins have seen their deals extended, Jake Cassidy, Ryan Donaldson, Scott Harrison, Louis Laing, Jack Munns and Conor Newton have all been told they are free to leave.
Bates has offered new deals to Liam Donnelly, Nicky Featherstone and Devante Rodney, but opted to allow Blair Adams, Luke George and Rhys Oates to depart.
The wheels are definitely turning at Victoria Park.
Here we take a look at the THREE major calls made by Bates and assess whether that’s good or bad news for the club moving forward.
Out with the ‘new’, in with the ‘old’
Five of the six players told they can leave the club were signed by previous manager Craig Harrison.
Two of the three who leave on a free transfer were also signed up by the now out-of-work former TNS boss.
This is telling of what Bates, a coach under Harrison for his tenure, and Hignett think of the work done by their predecessor in the transfer market.
Only Scott Loach, of Harrison’s signings, survives the cull, although the likes of Conor Newton and Jake Cassidy and others could easily remain at Pools, given they have a year left at the club.
One telling thing about the above list is that those who could well remain, the likes of Michael Woods, Nicky Featherstone, Carl Magnay, Lewis Hawkins, etc, played a massive part in the side who dropped out of League Two. While they have league quality, this continuity has already been seen as a negative by some fans on social media.
In truth, wholesale change is impossible, so it is no surprise some remain.
Top-scorer to extend stay?
Eleven-goal Woods saw his contract option, which adds a year to his deal, was taken up.
The midfielder was not short on options on January and was Pools’ stand out man in a forgettable season. He had been expected to leave, but on the face of it he will stay. Well, maybe.
Should someone want to take Woods they would have to pay Pools, and should he stay they have themselves a top class operator. It’s a no lose situation for Bates & Co.
Revamp at front and back
Pools didn’t score enough goals last season and were, at times, pathetic at the back.
So it’s heartening to see Bates look to tear things up at both ends. The experience of Magnay remains and so does the youthful exuberance of Rodney at the other end.
It’s set to be a new look Pools up top and at the back next season. The only shock in the cull was Oates, who didn’t let Pools down at any stage last season.