HARTLEPOOL United and manager Colin Cooper are considering taking legal action against the author of allegations made on the internet.
Both Cooper and chairman Ken Hodcroft have been accused of being “dishonest” and that striker Luke James has been “lied to” in a post on a supporters messageboard.
The club is in the process of identifying the individual responsible for the claims, but it is understood the poster is someone close to James.
The striker has handed in two transfer requests in the last week and, after playing in last Tuesday’s game with Dagenham at Victoria Park, failed to turn up for training on three successive days.
Peterborough’s bid for the 19-year-old, who signed a new contract on the eve of the new campaign, has been rejected by Pools, who won their first game of the season, 2-1 at Wimbledon, at the weekend.
The club responded on Saturday to the allegations, saying: “Stating that both CC and KH are dishonest are libel remarks and the club will take legal opinion and advice and are currently looking to identify the author.
“Luke James has not been lied to. He has been fully briefed by the Chairman on 16/08/14. Luke James has an agent who wants him to leave HUFC and is guiding him.
“Luke James is quite at liberty to put in a transfer request as is the club to reject it. He then remains contracted to HUFC.
“The Chairman spoke to him on Saturday evening after the game, so the reason he put in a transfer request cannot be because – as stated above – ‘refusing to speak to him’. He was told on Saturday that for him to move, the deal had to be a win-win for him and the club. The offer from Peterborough United is not a win-win. The club find the current offer unacceptable.
“The purpose of Luke James’ second transfer request is not understood by the club. The club got the message the first time.’’
James, 19, was due in for training on Thursday at Maiden Castle, but failed to appear. He didn’t turn up on Friday, when Pools trained at Victoria Park before setting off for Wimbledon, or Saturday for a session with the players not involved in the matchday squad.
Cooper, speaking after goals from strikers Charlie Wyke and Marlon Harewood earned the points, said: “Luke wasn’t with us. Apparently everything is my fault, which isn’t true, and I’m not happy to be called dishonest and a liar, because I’m neither.
“The fact of the matter is that after the game against Dagenham on Tuesday night Luke has chosen not to come back to the football club.
“Whose advice? I don’t know. But I can’t speak the player because he has chosen not to come back to work.
“Until he comes back I can’t speak to him.’’
The manager added: “Where does it leave things? Until he comes back to work I can’t do anything.
“I’ve spoke to him and asked why and that conversation remains private. But I’m being accused of things I’m certainly not, so I will stand my corner and fight.
“I cannot speak for him or his nearest and dearest or anyone advising him, but if someone calls me a liar I am going to fight back.’’
Posh are also keen on Gateshead’s Marcus Maddison, and have indicated they are not prepared to up their offer, which is well short of the supposed £1m bid reported.
The transfer window closes in seven days – which leaves a week for any deal to be completed or the striker will have to return to the Pools ranks.
However, with no sign of the Football League apprentice of the year for 2012, Cooper said: “The fact that Luke hasn’t turned in for work for three days is, for me, pretty bad.
“If a player doesn’t turn up for work and give anyone the reasons why he’s not there , all he has to is advise the club he’s not coming and he hasn’t done that until Thursday afternoon.
“I spoke on Thursday afternoon and he apologised for not coming into work, which is what I’d expect from him. But he chose not to on Friday or Saturday.’’
Chairman Hodcroft has been in a similar situation before and played hardball with Chris Beech, when the midfielder stayed away from the club after a proposed move to Sheffield United, collapsed.
And Cooper admitted: “I cannot say what will happen next. The club has made our point of view fairly clear on the messageboard. We have not said anything about any kind of offer. The only people who have to be happy for a transfer to happen is the football club.
“We are not happy with the terms offered so are well within our rights to say no.
“But I think when I speak to other people I’m not being heard because they are not hearing what they want to hear.’’