Fleetwood Town facing major summer rebuild

Captain Mark Roberts is among the departures
Captain Mark Roberts is among the departures
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Fleetwood Town boss Graham Alexander is facing a major rebuilding job after naming eight senior players among the 14 to be released this summer.

Only four of Alexander’s out-of-contract players have been offered new deals – Nathan Pond, Stephen Jordan, Gareth Evans and Jamille Matt.

That means joint-top goalscorer David Ball will leave Highbury along with club skipper Mark Roberts.

Also departing, after just one season with Town, is former Blackpool left-back Stephen Crainey.

Midfielders Steven Schumacher, Jeff Hughes and Stewart Murdoch are also released, along with defender Liam Hogan and young forward Matty Hughes.

Among the younger players to be let go are keeper Mason Springthorpe, who has provided cover for no.1 Chris Maxwell this season, and Richard Wright, a product of Town’s youth system who was rewarded with his first professional deal two years ago.

Boss Graham Alexander made it clear the decision to allow so many players to depart had not been easy, but he stressed Town’s drive to invest in youth development had to come first.

The Town boss said: “There is going to be a significant turnover in the squad this summer.

“We have had to make some very difficult decisions.

“We have a profile of the mak-up of our future squad going forward and a stronger emphasis on up and coming professionals.

“We want to produce our own players, and we want to bring in young players and improve them to help us become a better team.”

But he acknowledged the hard work of those players not offered new deals, many of whom were involved in the club’s Wembley promotion 12 months ago.

Alexander added: “There are some players leaving who have done a tremendous job for this club. Everyone on that list has contributed to what this team has done over the last 12-24 months.

“When there is a change, you have to make very tough decisions and there have been none tougher than what we have had to do this summer.

“ We hope the supporters see the new direction we are going in and how it will benefit the long-term future of the club.”

The Fleetwood boss paid tribute to every one of the players who helped Town to their highest ever finish in English football.

“They have been superb,” he said. “We’ve had ups and downs in terms of results.

“I’ve had disagreements with individuals over the last couple of years but that’s just because we all want to win.

“It’s football and there have to be conflicts – that’s part of life.It’s always just been a flash in the pan and we’ve got back to work.

“I like the environment to be competitive and I like people to be desperate to win.

“They’ve been a group of men and they’ve taken whatever has been thrown at them in their stride.”

Town have, on their way to six promotions in 10 years, relied on the continued investment of chairman Andy Pilley, with successive managers given significant financial backing by the energy entrepreneur.

But Alexander made it clear times are changing.

With Fleetwood subject to Financial Fair Play regulations and the high costs of sustaining League One football, the club aims to move on from one that buys in talent to one producing it – a change made possible by the development of a £4.5m training ground in Thornton.

It has meant a radical change in the club’s recruitment strategy for this summer.

Alexander explained: “When we’ve released players before, we didn’t think they were good enough for what we were trying to do.

“This summer has been a slight change because of where we want to go and need to go.

“We’re remodelling the club and the recruitment process – the age of the players, the cost of the players.

“We’re working with a restricted budget and we want to put a plan in place to sustain this club in the long term, so it’s not relying on the chairman’s contributions. It’s got to run well as a business.

“A time comes in a club’s history when it has to stand on its own two feet as much as possible, and that’s behind a lot of the decisions we’ve had to make.

“We still want to be a competitive League One team. We still want to improve.

“But we want to try to improve the value of the squad and the potential to move players on to a higher level.”

Despite the need to change the profile of his squad, Alexander admitted it had been tough to let some of his biggest names go.

He added: “When you’re talking about lads the calibre of Mark Roberts, David Ball, Steven Schumacher ... these have been incredible players for this football club and helped me in the early stage of my managerial career.

“They’ve been fantastic people around the club.

“When we brought in Robbo, we heard great things about him as a leader, as a captain, as a player. He was the one who set the example.”