Accrington Stanley are poised for a battle to keep defender Dean Winnard over the summer – and have not ruled out a Brett Ormerod return.
Winnard, 22, has a year left on his contract but former Reds boss John Coleman, now at League Two rivals Rochdale, is known to be keen on the defender and, after buying striker George Donnelly from Macclesfield Town, has shown he has funds available.
Captain Winnard had surgery on both his ankles and was out for the second half of the season but has been a steady performer at the heart of the Reds’ defence.
With the loss of experienced heads such as Sean Hessey and Danny Coid, who are on the hunt for new clubs, and Kevin McIntyre – also set to head to Spotland – manager Paul Cook admitted he is keen to keep hold of Winnard and midfielder Luke Joyce but knows Coleman may be chasing his former players.
"If lads want to leave and don’t want to play for this club then we won’t stand in their way," said the Stanley boss.
"We don’t want them to leave but, if they do, it will be for the right price for Accrington and the right deal for the club. We only want players who want to be here.
"We want to keep experienced players like Dean and Luke – it is important. We also want young lads we can develop here and it’s our job to find the right blend."
Coleman has said he has spoken to Cook about Winnard but no official approach has been made.
Meanwhile, Blackpool striker Ormerod, who starred for Stanley in the late 1990s, has been released from Blackpool officially but boss Ian Holloway has said the 35-year-old will be offered some kind of deal at the Seasiders. That does leave the Accrington-born frontman open to a move.
"I know Brett personally and professionally," said assistant manager Leam Richardson. "He is the type of player we would want at the Crown Ground and signing him would give everyone a massive lift. I will be speaking to him but obviously it’s down to Blackpool and him."
Cook said: "We want to get the right blend here but everything is geared to finances and we have got to get those right. We have got to weigh up who we can bring in financially and who wants to play for us.
"We are not going to offer them money which will change their lives but, for someone like Brett Ormerod at the end of their careers, or for young lads who want to come here and develop and then perhaps move on, this could be the right club."
As well as Joyce and Winnard, Stanley have signed up Peter Murphy, Ian Dunbavin, Craig Lindfield and added defender Toto Nsiala, released from Everton after a loan spell with the Reds, snapping him up on a one-year deal last week.
Youngsters Ryan Hopper, Adam Stockdale and Marcus Carver are also in the squad.
Bryan Hughes, Will Hatfield and Charlie Barnett have been offered deals and Cook said: "These are all ongoing. As it stands, they can sign for someone else and we can sign someone else in their position.
"It’s a double-edged sword. If they sign, it’s all well and good. If we sign someone in their position, then the contract isn’t there anymore. That’s the way it is."
It’s expected there will be around 800 players out of work when the PFA reveal their released list but Cook won’t rush into anything.
"I am having calls all day and we are looking at the options and we are talking to people and trying to add to our squad.
"Like I said, we can’t offer life changing money but we are not here to make the numbers up. In terms of budget we start in last position but it doesn’t mean we are staying there. We are not second best and we will be working hard in pre-season with the objective to win League Two."