Director of football Trevor Collins admitted there would be changes made to the Bury Town squad ahead of a promotion charge next season.
The Blues’ close season work has begun in earnest with both Collins and manager Richard Wilkins happy to report they are further ahead than this stage last year when Bury struggled to attract new faces into the club.
Collins hopes to tie up a ‘major signing’ in the coming days, while injury-hit Elliot Hunter has become the first player to leave Ram Meadow this summer.
“There definitely will be some changes because we failed this year by not hitting the play-offs, which as a club, is not good enough,” said Collins. “The target next year is to go up.”
The departing Hunter, 21, thanked the club for standing by him through two horrific knee injuries and said he would be keen to return when his off-the-field circumstances are right.
He has just started working as head of boys’ games at The Old School Henstead, just south of Lowestoft, combining that with his sports science degree at university in Ipswich.
“I would love to come back, but at the moment it is not feasible,” said Hunter, who made just four appearances for Bury this season. “Everyone has been fantastic and the support from everyone through both injuries has been superb.”
Of the current squad, Tom Bullard, Billy Clark, Lee Reed, Marcus Garnham and top scorer John Sands are already under contract for next season, despite the latter expressing his desire to move up the pyramid earlier in the season.
Wilkins said: “We are in a much better place than we were last year by having a few sorted out.”
Connor Hall and Russell Short are among those out of contract at Bury this summer and have both attracted interest from sides in the Conference and above, but Hall’s chances of a move have been hit by the news he is to have an operation on a torn groin on June 3.
Bury would be entitled to a fee if Hall — who was close to a move to Leyton Orient last year — were to go because he is under the age of 24.
“We’ve never stopped anyone from moving on up,” said Wilkins. “It’s great for the club and great for the players, but it puts us on the backfoot as we have two players who might be at the club or might not.”
The rest of the squad is being spoken to this week, while potential signings are also being met to discuss a move to west Suffolk.
Veteran former Canvey Island and Histon midfielder John Kennedy has verbally agreed with Wilkins to stay, despite being left out of the Suffolk Premier Cup final starting line-up in favour of youngster Evan Key.
Former Chelmsford City trio Craig Parker, Adam Tann and Warren Whitely are also on the club’s radar as their short-term deals come to an end, with the Blues keen to hold on to Parker and Tann particularly, while a deal for Whitely may be scuppered because he lives in Crystal Palace.
Callum Kearns, like Hunter, has been sidelined for much of the season with a second major knee injury in a short time, but is stepping up his rehabilitation and could be involved in pre-season.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Garnham collected the supporters’ and players’ player-of-the-year awards at the Blues’ presentation night on Saturday.
Garnham swept the board last year, but Sands prevented that this time by being the recipient of this season’s manager’s player-of-the-year trophy.