Keith Curle explains Mark Shelton's Hartlepool United exit after midfielder completed Oldham Athletic switch
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Shelton was one of just seven players remaining at the Suit Direct Stadium from Hartlepool’s promotion winning campaign of 2020-21 having made over 100 appearances for the club having joined from Salford City.
The midfielder was popular among supporters after playing a big role in that season in helping the club return to the Football League before making 41 appearances last year.
But the 26-year-old has struggled to feature regularly this season, whether that be down to injury or falling out of favour at the Suit Direct Stadium - something which has, ultimately, led to his exit.
And asked on the decision to sanction Shelton’s exit, Curle admitted he was unable to provide Shelton with his desired game time, despite a recent return to the squad.
“I had a few conversations with Mark where, ultimately, he wasn’t going to get the game time that he thought his career, at this particular time, needed and was a necessity for,” said Curle.
“He’s taken the option, he’s gone and got himself a contract at another football club whereby he’s going to be playing games. Excellent for Mark and excellent for us in that it gives us another opportunity to fill another hole.
“I’m here to improve the squad,” he added.
“If you have a look at Oldham, I think they’ve got something like 43-44 signed players. We’re trying to increase our squad but also then give players that see themselves playing more week in, week out and giving them the opportunity to do that.
“There’s a reason why we’re second bottom of this division. It’s because the performances on the pitch haven't been good enough.
“Other players and clubs see that and notice that. So the opportunity for them to go is probably limited in the second division, so Mark has gone down a level, hopefully for himself, to progress his career and come back up.”
The Mail understands there was no fee involved for Shelton’s move to the National League side after he joined fellow midfielder Christopher Missilou in leaving the Suit Direct Stadium.
The exit of both Shelton and Missilou, combined with Callum Cooke's ankle injury, does leave Hartlepool short in the midfield area but manager Curle reiterated the club remain in negotiations with a number of players ahead of the close of the January transfer window.
"Yeah [we’re close],” said Curle.
"We’re in negotiations and discussions that are ongoing that can potentially see three or four players being added to the squad. That can happen.”
Hartlepool have added to one area with the loan arrival of Leicester City's Jakub Stolarczyk who is set to rival Ben Killip in goal for the rest of the season.