Four days to sign up stars

Blackpool's Craig Cathcart
Blackpool's Craig Cathcart
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Blackpool have just four days to decide whether to keep nine members of their senior squad.

Twenty Seasiders players are out of contract this summer, though nine of them have a clause in their contract allowing Pool to extend their deal by a further 12 months.

However, Pool must exercise those options by Saturday or the players concerned can walk away.

Barry Ferguson has already stated he won’t be returning and has been linked with the managerial vacancy at St Mirren, meaning Pool may have to make decisions on the futures of Neal Bishop, Kirk Broadfoot, Ricardo Fuller and others without a manager to guide them.

Karl Oyston has declared his aim to have a new manager in place by weekend and the Pool chairman continued his search yesterday.

He has spoken to almost all of those on his seven-man shortlist and is seriously considering appointing an overseas manager.

The Gazette understands that a number of those Oyston has spoken to hail from continental Europe.

Oyston remains hopeful a new manager will have time to make the decisions on out-of-contract players, though he realises the deadline is fast approaching.

“We have until the third Saturday in May to notify players we have options on,” he explained.

“Hopefully we’ll have the managerial situation resolved and the manager will have an input into those decisions, though I’d like to think a lot of those decisions will make themselves.”

As it stands, Tom Barkhuizen, Steven Davies, new signing Charles Dunne, Bobby Grant, Gary MacKenzie and David Perkins are the only senior players signed up for 2014-15.

Eleven members of last season’s squad are now totally out of contract and free to leave, including player of the season Matt Gilks, Chris Basham, Craig Cathcart and Isaiah Osbourne.

Speculation is mounting over the future of these stars, none of whom has yet been offered a new deal at Blackpool.

Goalkeeper Gilks is said to be a target for Ian Holloway’s Millwall and Premier League Aston Villa.

Bolton, who signed Alex Baptiste from Pool last summer, are said to be trailing fellow centre-half Cathcart, while Blackburn and Brentford have been linked with utility man Basham.

It all makes the arrival of a new manager all the more urgent, with a huge rebuilding job needed before August.

One player who definitely won’t be returning to Bloomfield Road is Thomas Ince.

The winger spent the second half of the season on loan at Crystal Palace after his dad Paul was sacked as Pool manager in January.

Ince is out of contract, though Pool still stand to bank a multi-million pound fee from his transfer as he is under-23 – though the compensation fee would be far smaller if Ince went aborad.

Inter Milan are the latest of a host of clubs to be linked to Ince, and as ever he is keeping his options open. “There are options there for me,” said Ince. “I’ve just got to pick the right one for me. Playing in the Premier League was fantastic –it’s a top, top level – but it’s nice to feel you are wanted at places.”