Jim Bentley: Releasing Nathan Pond was toughest decision for AFC Fylde
AFC Fylde manager Jim Bentley has paid tribute to Nathan Pond, saying the decision not to offer the centre-back a new deal was the toughest of his calls on this summer’s out-of-contract players.
The 36-year-old’s season at Mill Farm was cut short by the pandemic and disrupted by injury but he made a huge impression on Bentley and all his teammates.
The Coasters boss said: “The hardest decision for me, with him being captain, was Nathan Pond.
“It goes without saying Pondy is a fantastic guy who has had a fantastic career and was a big player for us.
“I can’t speak too highly of him as a pro and as a person but you have to take everything into consideration – where they sit on a wage structure, the stage of their career, what we feel we need to do going forward. We’ve decided we are going to go a different way as regards that position.
“He has a bit of a foot injury but has been involved with his national side (Monserrat) since the league was called off, so he has played football.
“Again we wish him all the best. It’s great to see him around the place at the moment training. He’s a thorough professional, great with the other players and the staff.”
Another who has been released but continues to train with the club is goalkeeper Max Johnstone whose season was ruined by injury.
The Preston-born keeper, signed last summer after a year at St Johnstone in Scotland, could not force his way above Pond’s former Fleetwood teammate Chris Neal in the Fylde pecking order.
Bentley added: “Chris is a little bit ahead of him and you can only play one keeper.
“Max’s injury kept him out for a few months and he’s one who is staying with us at the moment training.
“We have a duty of care to him to get him fit ready for when he goes to another club.
“He’s at the stage of his career where he needs to find a club where he will be playing regularly.
Johnstone tweeted: “Been a hard one being out injured all season... thanks to the PFA for all their help too. They really are class! On to the next adventure.”
Although Fylde’s retained list was only announced last Thursday, the decisions were made known to the players earlier to help them plan for the future.
Bentley said: “It’s not a nice time of year – any manager will tell you that – because it’s all about careers and livelihoods. I’ve always been as honest as I can and tried to do it the right way – face to face and giving some feedback. We’ll help anyone who has represented us in their future careers.
“We’ve had those conversations and thought we’d do it as early as possible.
“We think we got the timing right to try to give people a head start.
“We’ve come up with a nucleus of a squad we want to keep and build on, and unfortunately some players leave.
“We gave them all the opportunity to carry on training with us – certainly for Max and Pondy to get them right back up to where they need to be.”
Sheldon Green, Jordan Lussey, Junior Mondal, James Stanley and Kurt Willoughby were also released.
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