Revolution or evolution behind Hartlepool Utd’s retained list?

Andy Monkhouse (far left) and Ritchie Humphreys (far right) are negotiating deals with Pools. Picture by FRANK REID
Andy Monkhouse (far left) and Ritchie Humphreys (far right) are negotiating deals with Pools. Picture by FRANK REID

JOHN Hughes, the Hartlepool United manager, says he wants to develop an attacking brand of football with home-grown players at its core.

How to start that process then?

The club release Evan Horwood, a lifelong Pools fan and the primary source of goals in each of his three seasons at Victoria Park.

Quite who made that decision we do not know – Hughes? Chief executive Russ Green? Or chairman Ken Hodcroft?

Hughes, as recently as the final home match of the season, also talked of signing “seven or eight” players during the summer, even revealing that those targets had already been identified.

Those comments, however, were juxtaposed to programme notes from the club hierarchy indicating that, understandably, budgets would be cut as an upshot of relegation.

The message, then, is somewhat contradictory.

Consider, too, the expected retention of Ritchie Humphreys, Andy Monkhouse and Sam Collins, as well as the already-confirmed contract extensions of Neil Austin and James Poole, and the disparity of intent is amplified.

So will this close-season see revolution, evolution or, as has been the case in recent years, ill-advised recruitment which, ultimately, led to last month’s demotion to the bottom tier?

Put simply, we do not know.

The 10-day wait in announcing the first phase of the rebuilding process is indicative of the uncertainty surrounding the club at present.

Hughes, we are told, has gone on holiday for six weeks.

The players did not know when, or by whom, news of their future would be delivered.

Horwood – the biggest shock of a released list which also included Colin Nish, Nathan Luscombe, Nathan Buddle, Paul Johnson and Adam McHugh – is currently on holiday and was upset to finally learn of his fate via telephone, Green the man who eventually did the round of calls.

And Horwood, it must be said, is unfortunate.

Undoubtedly one of the more technically adept members of the senior squad – his assists record bears testament to that – the left-back was invariably his side’s chief attacking threat.

He was also, having gauged reaction to his exit, popular among fans.

For only his release has sparked any sort of reaction.

But supporters had also hoped for more - they had been encouraged by Hughes’ hinting toward overhaul.

As it is – should Collins, Humphreys and Monkhouse all remain at the club – then room for manoeuvre is probably restricted.

A case can be made for extending the stay of each of the above when considering their merits on an individual basis, as it can with Poole and Austin.

But here was a chance for cleansing, an opportunity to revitalise a playing staff which had gone stale.

That is the source of fan frustration today.

Should the expected sales of goalkeeper Scott Flinders and striker Steve Howard generate transfer funds, however, then we could still witness significant squad investment, it is certainly needed.

But for now, doubt over the direction of the club remains.

All we do know is that a good footballer and an honest, local lad has been released.

Good luck, Evan.