IT’S decision time at Accrington Stanley as John Coleman starts planning for next season’s League Two campaign.
Boss Coleman and assistant Jimmy Bell have got their own futures secured, signing a one-year rolling deal last Friday as they look ahead to their 11th year in charge of the Reds.
But they are working on a lesser playing budget this year and know that makes it tricky to improve on their 16th place finish this season - the highest place they have ended in since their return to the Football League.
On the playing side, new two-year deals have already been offered to Stanley’s Player of the Year Jimmy Ryan and Young Player of the Year Chris Turner.
And star striker Paul Mullin returned to Stanley for training last Friday after his loan spell at Bradford finished - but he could not play in the 1-0 loss on the final day of the season at Bury.
The 34-year-old still has another year on his Reds’ contract as does young frontman Sean McConville.
Coleman is expected to talk to players next week with keeper Kenny Arthur having very preliminary talks about a new contract while it’s believed Ian Dunbavin is also in the manager’s plans.
Coleman will be keen to keep centre half Phil Edwards, who has been outstanding this season, while left back Chris King has an option on his contract which the club can take up and keep him for another season.
Midfielder John Mullin also has another year on his contract after triggering an appearance clause.
Out-of-contract Leam Richardson, Andy Procter, John Miles, Robert Grant, Peter Murphy and Jay Bell are also expected to be in talks with views to deals.
Stanley are also in contact with Peterborough about bringing Kieran Charnock back either on loan or in a permanent deal - but he does have one year left on his Posh contract and it depends if they release him or want payment for the defender. He cost them £50,000.
Meanwhile captain Peter Cavanagh is also believed to be in Coleman’s plans although his and Robbie Williams’ future’s are up in the air as they await the verdict of their charge of breaching the Football Association’s rules on betting.
All the evidence supporting their cases had to be with the FA yesterday with any verdicts expected in the summer but the club has said both will be sacked if found guilty.
Defender Colin Murdock is retiring from football while striker Andy Smith is expected to leave although Burnley midfielder Adam Kay - on loan at the back end of the season - could be offered something at the FES. Scholar Alan Burton has been offered a one-year professional contract.
Coleman admits it is hard with the lower budget and the uncertainty as the takeover of the club - with chairman Eric Whalley selling the majority of his 56 per cent shares and businessman Dave O’Neill the frontrunner - has still not yet happened.
"It’s a lower budget and we will have to cut our cloth accordingly this year and there is no point bleating about it," said Coleman.
"If people don’t come and put money through the turnstiles then we can’t pay out and that is the harsh reality.
"I am not blaming anyone it is just fact. If you do a job and get paid X amount of money then you can’t really spend more. It’s housekeeping and we perhaps have to do it more than other clubs."
He admits he will have to be even more prudent with any summer signings and, while ambitious to have a play-off challenge, he is more realistic.
"I’ll have to wait and see what players I get in before I start thinking about where we’re going to finish next year.
"But our priority on a budget of that size will be to stay up.
"We need to get defenders in and midfielders in and are going to have to strengthen our squad to try and compete.
"I just don't want to make up the numbers in this league and it annoys me that we have had to in the last three seasons but we will have to see what happens over the summer."
His big priority is a striker as the Reds have scored just 42 goals this season - the lowest in the league.
"That was the big difference between us and Bury. They had four strikers to choose from while we had just one in Craig Lindfield."
He hopes to sign Liverpool loanee Lindfield, who has one year left on his Anfield contract, on a new loan deal while he aims to get Michael Symes from Shrewsbury, who was also on loan with the Reds.
"I think we have played well, a lot better than we did the previous season, and we have definitely tightened our defence up and, if we could have scored more goals, we might have been vying for a play-off place.
""We have climbed a place from last season even though we have dropped a point but it is still an improvement."