BLACKPOOL boss Michael Appleton is furious over reports that skipper Alex Baptiste is set to leave the club.
The media reports claimed Pool have agreed a fee with Championship rivals Leicester City for the 26-year-old defender.
The story surfaced while Appleton and his team were in their Teesside hotel preparing for Saturday’s game at Middlesbrough, which Pool lost 4-2.
The reports stunned the Pool boss and Baptiste himself, who both said they know nothing about the so-called deal.
And the Blackpool boss suggested the story may be designed to unsettle the player.
Appleton said: “It’s a little bit naughty as far as I’m concerned. I have no idea about it at all.
“The first I heard about the whole thing was on television. Baps knows nothing about it, and as far as I’m aware it is total speculation.
“I’m not happy at all about how the news broke but what can you do?
“We try to be professional in what we do but we can’t control what happens in the media.”
Defeat at the Riverside leaves Pool seven points adrift of the play-off places, having taken just one point from three matches over Christmas.
But Appleton feels the disruption to their preparations may have contributed to Pool’s performance on Saturday.
He added: “It’s a compliment that the players and the football club are doing things right. But for that to happen the night before a game probably messed with the player’s head.
“I have to say I thought Baps did well on Saturday, certainly from an attacking point of view.
“He got into some great positions but what went on isn’t helpful.”
Baptiste (congratulating Wes Thomas on his goal, below) is among numerous first-team players whose contracts expire at the end of the season.
Pool are yet to begin talks to tie up any of their stars long-term, leaving themselves open to offers from other clubs.
Should they not agree new deals, the likes of Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Stephen Crainey and Baptiste would all be able to walk away from the club in the summer for free.
But Appleton hopes that won’t be the case. He said: “Alex is a player we want to keep. He’s captain of the football club. He’s not captain for any other reason than that he’s an important part of the team.
“Over the last few weeks he’s been very good for us. It was a distraction we could have done without.
“Hopefully players linked with moves away are strong enough to put it all to one side and perform.
“To be fair, they do that here. I have a good honest group of players who do work hard.”