RAJ Singh has put Hartlepool United up for sale after relegation to the National League was all but confirmed.

Singh says the decision is the "toughest he's ever had to make" and, in a lengthy statement, said he is "hurting and deeply upset".

The home defeat to Crawley on Saturday left Pools six points adrift of safety with two games to play with a much inferior goal difference - all but relegating John Askey's side.

It's been a disastrous season on the pitch for Pools, who have gone through three managers. Singh insists current boss Askey will be in charge next season and claims he'll be backed by a budget "a third higher" than the promotion-winning National League campaign. But the reality is that will be determined by the new owners - if a takeover goes through between now and the start of next season.

Singh said: “As long as the fans allow me the courtesy and don’t force my hand, I will not just walk away and leave this club in a mess as some prior regimes have unfortunately done. My aim was always to leave Hartlepool United in a better position than what I found it, and I firmly believe that can still be done.”

Singh has been in charge at Hartlepool since 2018, when he completed a last-gasp takeover of the club when they were threatened with liquidation.

Explaining his decision to now sell the club, Singh said: "This comes as an incredibly tough decision, perhaps the toughest I have ever had to make, but I will formally be putting the club up for sale. It is certainly not what I had intended to do but I feel I must listen to the voices from Saturday.

“I am hurting and deeply upset following Saturday. I do want to apologise to all the genuine fans for the shortcomings on the playing side. This season has been nowhere near good enough and I will elaborate on that in due course.

“As a local person I stepped in to help Hartlepool United when it was in danger of ceasing to exist and I have done my utmost. Despite what some people might what to believe or portray, the club is in a much more secure position behind the scenes than when I arrived.

“I find some of the comments that are being made and the abuse that myself, my family and some staff have received incredibly difficult to hear and digest. I have dedicated my time, energy and money to help the club with the right intentions.

“Since my very first interview, I have always said that I will not stand in the way of other another owner or investors who have the right intentions and backing. I will now make that opportunity formally public and promote it."

Singh he insists he remains "fully committed" to the club until a sale goes through, and has held talks with Askey this week.

He said: "John Askey will be the manager of this football club next season. I have sat down with John and Darren (Kelly) our Sporting Director to assure them, and all the fans, that I will remain fully committed to the success of Hartlepool United both on and off the pitch until the club is sold.

"Plans have been put together and the manager will receive a budget of around one-third higher than the one that got us promoted a few years ago if we go into National League. We will back John and his team in either scenario to turn this situation around and we believe the ingredients are there to do so. In many ways the club is in a stronger position now.

“I have also given my assurances to the off-field staff that it will be business as usual and that they should continue with their good work and progress. The commercial team have a lot planned this summer.

“Finally, I ask the fans to remember that we are human and also that potential owners, coaches, players, sponsors etc will all be looking in at us during this process.”

Hartlepool say "further details of the process and timeline will follow".

Hartlepool play Barrow at home on Saturday before a final day trip to Stockport, who are managed by former Pools boss Dave Challinor.