HARTLEPOOL United has urged fans to "think carefully" before voting for the sitting Labour MP, months after he criticised plans to sign the disgraced striker Ched Evans.

Iain Wright spoke out in December when the club was bottom of the league, saying that it would become a "pariah" if it signed the convicted rapist.

And when the club announced it would not give him a route back into football, Mr Wright expressed his pleasure at the decision by club bosses.

On his website, the 42-year-old says he is a season-ticket holder at his home town club and he attends games with his brother.

Now the Sky Bet Division Two club, which escaped relegation to the Conference after a remarkable turnaround, has released a statement on its website, saying Mr Wright made his comments about the controversial signing for "political gain".

COMMENT: Kicking in the wrong direction

At the time, officials expressed concern that what started as an internet rumour escalated into a full-blown row.

In its statement published online, United mentioned that Conservative candidate Richard Royal and Phillip Broughton of Ukip had attended games and shown "current and future interest" in the club.

It also claimed Mr Wright had failed to back the club on a separate matter.

The statement continued: "This club supports any candidate who supports the club and the Football League.

"The current Hartlepool Labour MP has failed to support the club on many occasions (as has the Labour Council).

"The MP failed to recognise that his immediate comments on certain issues regarding player transfers did not benefit this club but, in the club's opinion, were made for political gain.

"In addition, his failure to assist in negotiations with the Council on the land purchase issue since his election has been disappointing. The club expects more from a local MP.

"However it's up to you the people of Hartlepool but the club urges you to think carefully about voting for any councillor or MP who does not recognise the importance of this Football Club to its loyal supporters, the income it brings into the town and the future of the club.

"Elsewhere on this website we list more information about the political parties and their 'views' on football.

"The SNP are also listed but we assume they will have no influence over English football - but then again who knows?

"Maybe it's time for a political change in Hartlepool?

"Please carefully review all the candidates and cast your vote on May 7th."

Also standing are Hilary Allen (Liberal Democrat), Sandra Allison (Save Hartlepool Hospital), John Hobbs (Independent), Michael Holt (Green) and Stephen Picton (Independent).

Hartlepool United's attendances have averaged around 3,500 despite a bad season which saw them flirt with relegation.

Mr Wright, who took over the seat from Peter Mandelson in 2004, won with a majority of 5,509 in 2010.

He did not wish to comment on the club's statement.