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IT'S been decision time at Accrington Stanley with six players released - and more are set to follow.

UNABLE to hang on - John Coleman has seen much of his team leave.
UNABLE to hang on - John Coleman has seen much of his team leave.

IT'S been decision time at Accrington Stanley with six players released - and more are set to follow.

Boss John Coleman has been sorting out the contracts for the players who will be part of Stanley's full-time switch next season.

The six who have already left are Dean Calcutt, John Durnin, Gordon Armstrong, Andy Gouck, Jerome Fitzgerald and Keiran Killackey.

No contracts have yet been signed for the new season - this will probably happen in July when they return to training and their existing deals run out - and some of the players are considering the new offers.

"Some more will go as some of the lads have been disappointed with what they have been offered but we cannot offer any more," said Coleman.

One of them is goalkeeper Jamie Speare - Stanley's longest serving player - who would be giving up his job at the bank to go full-time with the Reds.

"I just cannot afford to do it with the contract I have been offered," said the keeper. And fellow goalie Jon Kennedy's contract is also in the "melting pot" said Coleman.

Striker Lutel James is also thinking over his new offer. "I am happy at this club and want to stay here and want to sort it out as soon as possible," admitted the striker who has scored over 90 goals for Stanley in three seasons.

Steve Hollis is another whose Interlink future is up in the air. The left back works at Liverpool's Academy.

"I have spoken to the manager and he says he wants me to stay but it does depend on my job. I want to stay and I want to play for Accrington next season so hopefully we can come to some arrangement."

Defender Jonathan Smith, meanwhile, will stay on his existing contract. He will continue with his job but will train as often as possible with the Reds.

"They offered me a deal but I just couldn't take it full-time and John (Coleman) understood that," said the acting duty manager at Hyndburn Sports Centre who has been at Stanley since August 1999.

"But we have come to an agreement in which I can train the majority of the time but will still be able to work."

"It works out well because I work shifts and so I can do three days full-time training with Stanley. I will only miss around four sessions out of 12 in a three week rota. John seems happy with that, I am, so I hope it works out. I know I will benefit from training more and with Paul Cook added to the coaching staff, it should be good."

"I have the best of both worlds as this is the only club I want to play for and I keep my career."

And Coleman has begun his search for replacements. He has a hot list and on it are a Division One and Division Two player who he hopes he can tempt to the Interlink.

Chairman Eric Whalley said: "We have spoken to three class players who would bring experience and have played at a good level. We are waiting to hear from them."

And the chairman is pleased with the first season in the Conference despite the final day loss to Exeter and the tricky end to the season as Stanley slipped away from the play-offs and finished in 10th place.

Stanley do have to wait until the Football League AGM to hear if they will be in the LDV Vans Trophy next season although the top 12 Conference clubs were involved last season.

"At the start of the season if someone had said we would finish in 10th, get to the third round of the FA Cup and be in the LDV Vans we would have snapped their hands off," said the chairman. "The disappointment is that we have tailed off but realistically we have learnt a lot of lessons and I have enjoyed this season."

Meanwhile, although the club reported a loss of £47,993 in May 2002-2003 at the AGM on Wednesday night, that is no longer the case thanks to the promotion and the FA Cup run.

The deficit was due to the higher wages and ground improvements as Stanley made a bid to get out of the UniBond league.

Now, with Conf-erence football, bigger gates and the FA Cup run, there has been "significant income generated" and everything is in place to finance full-time football next season - and fulfil the dream of returning to league football.

"We have the right management team, we will get the right players and now we want to be back in the Football League - it is not just a dream," added the chairman.

The club will be training at Wilson's Playing Fields.

  • STANLEY target Lee McEvilly played for Northern Ireland Under 23s in a goalless draw with Serbia and Montenegro midweek. The Reds had the striker on loan this season and hope he will sign from Rochdale.
  • STANLEY are running a soccer school on week starting Monday, 31 May. For more information contract the club on 01254 383235.


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