Graham Alexander has defended his decision to release a dozen Fleetwood Town stars, including fans’ favourites Jamie McGuire and Andy Mangan.
The pair, both key figures in Town’s Conference promotion campaign, were given the news by Alexander yesterday – a sign the manager is pressing ahead with plans to remodel Fleetwood in his own image.
Also on the list of 12 players released is defender Rob Atkinson, who Alexander named as his captain on replacing Micky Mellon in December.
The others released are: Richie Allen, Anthony Barry, Kieran Charnock, Mosesh Gyorio, Jean-Michel Fontaine, Youl Mawene, Jamie Milligan, Barry Nicholson, Danny Rowe and Liam Wynn.
Town have taken up one-year contract extension options on both Shaun Beeley and Jamie Allen.
Contract talks are ongoing with Jon Parkin and Gareth Evans, the latter understood to have attracted the interest of League One clubs.
Included in the dozen is Youl Mawene, who remains at Highbury as a fitness coach, injury having brought his playing career to an end.
The boss insisted the decision to let high-profile squad members go was not one he took lightly
He said: “You’re talking about players’ careers and players who have done a great job for this club.
“It’s not a day I’ve looked forward to but I’ve done it with the best of intentions – to make Fleetwood a more competitive team at this level.
“That’s not to the detriment of what the lads have done for this club in the past. Some of them played a big part in getting this club into the Football League.”
And the Fleetwood boss revealed how those players leaving Highbury had shown nothing but professionalism as their fate was revealed.
“I spoke to them openly and honestly, one on one,” said Alexander. “They all handled it like great professionals.
“I wished them the best, they wished me the best and they all have strong feelings for the club.
“But things move on, they never stand still in football and for us to create a new team, a new squad, we’ve unfortunately had to make some tough decisions”
The Fleetwood boss is looking to reduce his squad to just 24 – a task not made any easier by his desire to strengthen in a number of key areas.
Those plans influenced in his decision to release so many. Alexander said: “You have to take into account the lads who are out of contract, the lads who are still in contract and the lads who are going to come into the club.
“You have too look at everything in context. You can’t just drop someone into a position. You have to ask, ‘Can they play with this person? Can they compete at this level?’
“It will be a difficult, competitive league to get out of and the decisions we have made now will hopefully bear fruit in the future.”
Alexander gave an insight into just how difficult some of the decisions he faced have been. “Some were quite easy to make – people who haven’t played or who you were clear about. Others were tough. We had one lad who had played a lot of games, others who we’d barely had a chance to see but you know had played a big part in the past.
“That’s where it got tough but we’ve had to bring the numbers down. People were going to be leaving this summer because of that.
“We know where we’ve got to strengthen the squad and we’ve had to make space for that to happen .
“It was all part of the thinking and we believe we need to have our own ID stamped on the squad.”
“A team mirrors a manager, it’s been hard for me to do that. We came in just before January and didn’t have a lot of time to change things around.
“I wanted to give the lads who were here a chance to be part of the future.Now we need to move on and add quality to the group, and that work has started.”
And the Fleetwood boss realises his decisions may not be popular with the Highbury faithful. He said: “The players we will bring in will, we hope, excite the fans and help us move the club on to the next level. This is going to be a tough, competitive division and we need to be able to make progress
“I know there will be supporters who will disagree with some of the decisions we are making, but I hope we can win them over with a team which is exciting to watch and successful.”