IAN GALLAGHER, the longest-serving employee at Hartlepool United, has left the club.

The club’s physio was called into a meeting on Wednesday when he was told by chairman Pam Duxbury that his services were no longer required.

The decision had nothing to do with new manager Craig Harrison, who will now need to quickly land a new physio with his players due to return for pre-season training a week on Monday.

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Gallagher, known universally as Buster, has been respected by players, staff and fans over the years and his departure, after over 25 years service, has come as a shock.

He made one appearance for the club, in 1996, before being forced to retire due to a knee injury and he trained to become a physio. He was appointed head physio in 2012 and has worked under nine managers.

Towards the end of last season, following the sacking of Jones, he was installed as one of four temporary managers alongside Billy Paytner, Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby for the final two games of the season.

Gallagher was due at Victoria Park on Thursday evening to give Jeff Stelling a massage after the Sky Sports presenter completed the penultimate leg of his adventure of walking 15 marathons in 15 days in aid of Prostate Cancer. An alternative physio completed the duties.

The decision has been widely criticised on social media, with former captains Micky Barron and Paynter and ex-boss Ronnie Moore hitting out at the club, with the decision being seen as a massive own goal.

Following a positive week at Victoria Park, with the signing of five new players, extending the contract of defender Carl Magnay and the news of a £240,000 sponsorship deal with Utility Alliance, the effects of relegation and last season’s troubles under former boss Dave Jones were being put to bed.

However, it appears the shadow he cast still lingers.

The news was revealed on The Northern Echo website on Friday morning, with the club then releasing a statement, as Duxbury explained her position.

It read: “There will be many difficult decisions to make at the club going forward into the new season and some may be unpopular, however every decision that I make will be what I believe to be the best interest of the club and to get us back to where we need to be.

“Craig Harrison was given the remit to build a team and this includes his backroom staff. This was not Craig’s decision, but my decision, and a remit that was discussed with all interviewees when we were recruiting.

“The performance of the club on the field has been in decline over many seasons. I have to look at every factor and changes need to be made that will build a whole team for the future.

“Some things have been tried and have failed, and there are changes that haven’t been made in the past and are still to be tried. What is clear, is if you continue to do the same thing, you get the same result. Times need to change at Hartlepool United FC to build for the future and unlock the potential.

“The performance of the club off the field needs improvement and we will need to adapt to life in the National League, whilst also keeping an eye on going back up in the Football League and remaining compliant and prepared in all we do across the board.

“I am fully aware of the comments which have been made on social media overnight – not just from our supporters but also from former players and managers - and understand this may not be a popular decision. It is disappointing after such a positive week, which has seen five new players recruited and a new sponsorship deal agreed, to end the week on a negative.

“But I cannot stress enough that I am absolutely committed to the success of this club and I will not shy away from making changes that need to be made in the best interest of the club.

“I would like to place on record thanks to Ian for his long service to the club, and latterly as Head Physio for the last five years.’’