Scott Loach's Hartlepool United future assessed plus FIVE men who could replace him at Pools
The biggest dilemma of the summer for Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett surrounds the future of goalkeeper Scott Loach.
Whether he remains or departs could have big ramifications for Pools on and off the park this summer.
Here our Pools writer Liam Kennedy takes a look at the pros and cons of keeping Loach as number one at the Super 6 Stadium, and takes a look at five potential players who could replace the 30-year-old former England call-up, if Hignett needs to.PROS - A case for Scott Loach...
Loach is two-time players' player of the year, he also won fans' player last season, too.
Those awards underline just how well regarded he is in the dressing room and on the terraces.
His stop stopping is second to none at this level and his experience, and cool, calm character are an asset Hignett will not be keen to lose.
Having played with Watford in the Championship and been in full England squads under Fabio Capello, professionalism is a cornerstone of Loach's game.
His attitude and application, as well as his leadership skills, can only be having a positive impact on the younger players within the squad.
Is a better keeper now, than when he walked through the door in the summer of 2017.CONS - The case against...
Ross Turnbull wants him to stay. Craig Hignett wants him to stay. The player himself is also keen to remain.
Finance. This seems to be the only real sticking point in negotiations.
Pools have a tight budget, and are keen to keep their powder dry for a 20-goal-a-season striker, so that might result in cuts being made elsewhere.
That could an impact on the future of Loach.
If we are being picky, crosses are not his strong point - but, if they were, he'd be playing back in the Championship, he's that good.
For all the cons, and there are very few, there will be no shortage of takers for a keeper of Loach's ability at this level. It would be no shock to see him step back into the league, having been Mr Consistent for Pools in the 100 games he started in his two-year spell at the Vic.Who could replace Loach, if he departs? Five alternatives assessed...Nathan Ashmore - Ebbsfleet United
An expensive option. Could turn out to be even more pricey than Loach.
But, importantly, is a player who Hignett really rates.
And add in the fact he's a free transfer, released by Ebbsfleet United this summer, and it's one that you cannot rule it out, however unlikely.
Take one look at him and he hardly looks the fittest or most mobile, but he has few peers, widely regarded as one of the best outside the Football League.Aynsley Pears - Middlesbrough
The Middlesbrough youngster is definitely one who remains on the radar.
As reported earlier this summer, Pools have enquired about the availability of the player, but were rebuffed.
This may not always be the case, though. Boro are keen for the player to get games elsewhere, having impressed on loan at Gateshead last season.
Could Pools provide that? It seems a little more likely the player will end up on loan in the Football League, a natural step in the player's development.Pete Jameson - Blyth Spartans
A Sunderland lad who has really made a name for himself in the National League North with Blyth Spartans.
The rumourmill has linked him with Pools since well before Spartans' failed promotion bid.
Spent some time earlier in his career at South Shields.Max Johnstone - Sunderland
Likely to be released by Sunderland this summer, the 20-year-old former Manchester United kid has been a regular for the Black Cars' under-23 side this season.
Hignett, with number two Ged McNamee, has solid contacts at the Stadium of Light, so this could prove an easy deal to strike.
But inexperience could be the big stumbling block for the Preston-native.Ryan Catterick - Hartlepool United
The least likely of the trio to make the step into the number one jersey, should Loach leave the club.
While some at the club think he has chance of making the step up, this summer might come around too early for the player, who is yet to make his first-team debut.
His only senior duty to date came as part of a loan spell at Guisborough Town at the start of last season.