RELEGATED Hartlepool United have finally begun their close-season rebuilding process – but it appears likely that just one first-team regular will be leaving Victoria Park.
That it was Pools-born defender Evan Horwood who was yesterday let go has been greeted with surprise by the majority of supporters.
The 27-year-old has barely missed a match since signing for his hometown club in 2010, appearing 138 times in three seasons, each year emerging as the team’s top assist-maker.
Horwood, like manager John Hughes, is currently on holiday and so it was chief executive Russ Green who delivered news of his release by telephone.
SportMail understands the left-back is upset that no new deal was offered and that he will now be leaving the club he has supported since childhood.
However, Horwood will not be short of suitors given his appearance record and assists return.
He was the shock name among a belated released list – the season finished 11 days ago – which also included striker Colin Nish, who has been on loan at Dundee for the bulk of the campaign, midfielder Nathan Luscombe, who made just six starts in two seasons, as well as fringe players Paul Johnson and Nathan Buddle and reserve-team goalkeeper Adam McHugh.
The club have exercised extension options on the contracts of right-back Neil Austin, striker James Poole and former academy midfielder Lewis Hawkins.
They will now be part of the squad which begins next season in League Two.
However, discussions are ongoing with senior trio Ritchie Humphreys, 35, Sam Collins, 35, and Andy Monkhouse, 32.
Their current deals are set to expire but it appears the club would like to retain their services and so further contract talks are expected over the coming days.
Supporters had anticipated more changes on Clarence Road given Hughes’ recent declaration that he would like to bring in “seven or eight” players during the summer.
But with staffing budgets set to be cut following demotion to the bottom tier, it remains to be seen whether or not the Scot will be able to see out his proposed recruitment plans to such an extent.
No-one from the club was available for further comment today, but a statement on the official website read: “The chairman and everyone at the club would like to thank all of the (released) players for their services and commitment to the club and wish them all the very best for the future. “Discussions are continuing with other remaining first-team players and more information will be made available in due course.”