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Page Comments On Retained List

13 May 2016

Following the release of the retained list, Port Vale boss Rob Page has expressed his desire to keep the core of his squad together heading into next season.

The Club has offered new deals to thirteen players, including top scorer Ajay Leitch-Smith, captain Carl Dickinson and midfielder Michael O’Connor.

Nine players have been released, while there are nine members of the squad still under contract.

Speaking to the press regarding the announcement, the manager said: “I think with the core group that we’ve got for next season, it’s just adding quality to that.

“I think for a large part of this season we haven’t been too far off the play-off push. Up until March we’ve been three points off it.

“Maybe a bit of investment in the January window might have helped us to get that last little bit.

“In the main we haven’t done a lot wrong this season, we have punched above our weight we were third favourites to get relegated, we’ve said all this before.

“The group of lads that we’ve had have been tremendous and great to work with so we want to keep hold of as many as we can that have bought into what we want to do.

“But because of the budget cut, we’ve got to do business carefully and there’ll be a lot of work to be done with renegotiations of the contracts.

“There will be cuts made, that’s public knowledge, so a lot will depend now on whether the player will be able to afford to take those cuts and continue to play for this football club.”

One player among those that have not been offered new deals is goalkeeper Chris Neal.

After picking up an injury in pre-season and the arrival of Jak Alnwick, the 30-year-old found game time difficult to come by in 2015/16.

He spent time on loan at Doncaster Rovers and Bury but will not return to Vale Park next season.

Overall the shot-stopper spent four years with the Club, making over 125 appearances. Page admitted the decision to let him go was a tough one.

“It was a difficult one because not only is he a great ‘keeper but he’s a great lad as well and I don’t think it’s come as too much of a surprise because since January he’s been out playing games, Doncaster first and then into Bury,” he said.

“Yes, he’s a good player, unfortunately he got the injury when he did last year. We wanted to bring another ‘keeper in and we went with Jak Alnwick and that’s football for you.

“Jak’s grabbed the opportunity with both hands, we knew we were bringing quality in and the way it’s panned out Jak’s had an exceptional season and he’s younger.

“We think there’s potential there for him to go and if he doesn’t earn the Club money he’s going to have a fantastic career and that’s the business side of football.

“You can’t let the emotions get involved, as nice as Chris is as a lad and as good as he is as a footballer, we’ve got to think of the football club as well and to have somebody like Jak coming through and a Ryan Boot, who has definitely got potential to go on and play League One football.

“It was a difficult one but I had to be honest with Chris as well and I told him that in January.”

Page is keen to recruit a number of new players this summer and outlined some of his plans when speaking to the media.

“Well I think we want to bring goals into the team. In amongst the offers is Ajay Leitch-Smith, Doddsy has got a decision on his contract as well,” he added.

“The good news is JJ Hooper is here for next year and I expect big, big things from him next year. I think we’ve seen the potential in him, he’s only going to get better from what he’s done.

“So to add goals into the team is vital really so if we can get one or two strikers in, whether we get Ajay or not, we’re still going to get an addition up top.

“We’re looking at all other positions. At the minute the work we’re doing is plan B. We’ve got our list that we want and now we’re out there looking at potential players to come in to improve us.”

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