NINE players were yesterday released by Hartlepool United following relegation from the Football League.

Billy Paynter is the biggest casualty, while the club has also offered new contracts to three players: Carl Magnay, Brad Walker and Rhys Oates. An extension has been taken up on Devante Rodney’s short-term deal following his two goals in the final game of the season.

Paynter was told by former boss Dave Jones that he wasn’t wanted next season and underwent Achilles surgery after it was hoped initially that rest and an injections would cure the problem and get the club captain back on the pitch.

Loading article content

He was injured throughout Jones’ ill-fated reign and was kept away from the first-team squad.

But once Jones departed, Paynter was a key influence as he formed part of the four-man management team Pools hoped would keep them in the Football League.

The core of this season’s squad remain, with the majority of those looking for new clubs fringe players.

Decisions on their futures were made by Paul Watson, the club’s head of recruitment. A number of players remain under contract at the club, but there are likely to be more departures over the coming weeks and months.

On their way are Ben Dudzinski, Keiran Green, Rob Jones, James Martin, Jake Orrell, Ben Pollock, Jordan Richards and Connor Smith.

Nathan Thomas has already left, signing this week for Sheffield United in a deal initially worth £200,000.

Jones made only four appearances this season, two games ended at half-time through injury and his final outing was in the horrific FA Cup defeat at Port Vale when he was stretchered off after suffering a knee injury.

Richards was sent on loan to Alfreton, returning at the end of the season and made 78 appearances after his debut in 2012.

Green earlier this week signed for Gateshead, while Orrell, Pollock and Martin were all signed last summer as part of former chairman Gary Coxall’s plan to nurture and develop young players to sell them on.

Rather like his reign at Pools, it all failed miserably.

He still owns half the club, with current chair and chief executive Pam Duxbury, along with Watson, conducting interviews for the vacant manager’s role.

The process will carry over to next week, with Sam Collins remaining the odds-on favourite.

Gary Brabin has been interviewed, while Chris Turner, Marcus Bignot and Ritchie Barker have all been strongly linked.