Hartlepool United chairman Ken Hodcroft insists manager Chris Turner will not be allowed to leave Victoria Park next summer.

Turner is out of contract at the end of the season, but Hodcroft - who yesterday announced a financial loss of £650,112 to the year ending December 1999 at the club's Annual General Meeting - is planning to swiftly open talks with the former Sunderland goalkeeper to keep him at the club.

Turner was appointed in February 1998 and has turned Pool around from relegation probables to promotion possibles.

And as higher division chairmen take note of his success in leading Pool to the Division Three play-offs last season, Hodcroft admitted: "We are already working on keeping him here.

"We are planning ahead and we are not going to leave it until the last month before we start talking. I think it is important to keep both Chris and Colin West at the club because the stage is there for them to take the club forward.

"Last season's success came somewhat out of the blue and I think Chris said that as well.

"But that has set him a goal to achieve and now people are judging him this season and asking 'If we don't do it again this season are we a failure?'

"Getting in the play-offs was a tremendous achievement for the club and for Chris, and playing Darlington increased the profile.

"Even though the result didn't go our way, getting there exceeded all expectations and Chris and the players can only have benefited from it.

"If we get there again, I am sure we have a stronger squad. We have had a bit of bad luck in three games when we have conceded late goals that have cost us points and if we had those extra points we would have been flying.

"But now we are getting players back and available again and supporters have seen things improve in the last couple of weeks.

"We are on an even keel and I think Chris is ambitious, and having him here can only be of benefit to the club.''

The financial deficit - Pool lost almost £12,000 a week - totals over £1.4m when the loss from the previous 12 months is added, and Hodcroft admitted: "Our fight to avoid relegation the previous season was very expensive.''

But that loss has been funded by the club's owners, Increased Oil Recovery Ltd, and Hodcroft is happy for the Aberdeen-based firm to carry that loss, although he did appeal to the town to rally round and show their support for Turner's efforts.

He said: "The club depends heavily on major contributions from IOR and we have major income from coporate/ hospitality entertaining and other events, but sponsorship remains a difficult area to attract funds.

"We are pleased with the way the club is developing, but we cannot rely solely on IOR.

"We need help from the town's businesses. It helps the club staff immensely when someone new takes an interest in the club and what we are doing.

"If gates went up by 500 to 1,000 it would greatly help the club's finances.

"At IOR we don't think 'great, the crowd's up by 200 that's another £2,000 for us.'

"We will still be putting money in whatever happens, but that increase in attendance would help us break even and the statistics would look better. People would be saying how crowds are improving at Hartlepool and people take notice of those things.''

Pool's turnover increased to £1.393m, almost £200,000 up on the previous year mainly due to an increase of £140,000 in gate receipts as attendances increased, while Turner led the fight against relegation to the Nationwide Conference.

Former Pool chairman Harold Hornsey stepped down from his operations role, which meant he received a payment of £277,083 as part of the agreement when he sold the club to IOR in September 1997.

Pool are also owed £65,337 by West Hartlepool Rugby Club from their ill-fated ground-share agreement - money which has been written off by the club.

Players' wages increased from £659,611 to £938,743, although income from transfer fees was down to £272,500 from £300,000.

As Turner revamped the squad, costs of £69,233 were incurred to pay off players' contracts.