Few surprises to Boston United's retained list, but fan favourites leave Pilgrims

Paul Cox announces the players he wants to keep at Jakemans Community Stadium

Luke Shiels is under contract. Photo: Oliver Atkin
Luke Shiels is under contract. Photo: Oliver Atkin

Paul Cox wants to keep the core of the Boston United squad which reached the National League promotion final together, if the Pilgrims' released and retained list is anything to go by.

This afternoon saw the club announce the players they hope to keep hold of as Cox and his team begin preparations for the 2022-23 campaign.

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As the manager begins to build a squad in his image for the first time, today's list hints at Cox looking to put together a solid spine, complemented by a touch of flair.

It's fair to say there are few surprises to the list as the club aims to keep the majority of starting XI which made it all the way to York on Saturday.

Skipper Luke Shiels will definitely be at Boston for a fourth straight season as he is already under contract.

Midfielder Brad Abbott - who has reached two play-off finals with his Pilgrims teammate - is also staying after the club triggered a new contract clause.

Young talents Keenan Ferguson and Fraser Preston have both been offered deals.

As the duo are under 24 years of age, any club hoping to take them off Boston's hands would be forced to pay compensation.

If an agreement could not be reached, then a tribunal would find a fitting figure, as happened when United lost Anthony Church and Shaun Pearson to Grimsby Town.

Defender Ferguson has really grown into his role as a versatile full back in his first year in senior football, while young attacker Preston was the club's joint-second leading scorer with 11 this campaign, despite only starting one of the past 19 matches.

Cox is also keen to retain eight out-of-contract players, with whom he is currently discussing terms.

While 31-goal leading scorer Danny Elliott, United's Player of the Year, and midfield maestro Shane Byrne will certainly have plenty of suitors, United must hope that the memories of the recent play-off run - plus perhaps geography - could convince the two midlands-based players to stay for second seasons.

Front-line menace Jake Wright jnr has also been offered a deal, in the hope he can put his injury problems behind him.

Although the former York City striker has featured for United over the past four seasons, two have those have come as a Minstermen loanee while injury saw him make just one appearance off the bench in the shortened 2020-21 campaign.

Last year, despite more fitness problems, he scored 11 times in 28 games and showed why Craig Elliott and Paul Cox were both so keen to have him in their side, even if not operating at 100 per cent.

Wright jnr has also hinted he'd love to remain, writing on Twitter: "Thank you too all the fans for your immense support throughout the season. Time to recharge and we go again next season #UTP."

Popular defender Scott Garner, who has also excelled in recent weeks, is another in talks.

Perhaps looking at next season as a long-term project, Cox has also offered deals to Jordan Burrow, Scott Duxbury, Brad Nicholson and Tom Platt - all four of whom could well have been named in the starting XI for the promotion final if fit.

Target man Burrow is overcoming an ankle problem that has ruled him out of the past 10 games while left back Nicholson has only just put the crutches down after injuring his knee.

Midfield stopper Platt, a hard-to-find-but-important style of player, has been another long-term absentee.

There are certainly question marks as to whether Platt and Nicholson could be fully fit for the start of the season, despite Platt hoping as much after positive ankle surgery, but such is there talent it seems Cox is willing to make the gamble.

Duxbury was described as a 'warrior' by Cox for sitting on the bench in the play-off semi and final after needing more than 30 stitches to his face following a clash in the eliminator contest at Kidderminster Harriers.

His status as a favourite of many supporters, especially young fans, may be enough to convince him to commute from Blackburn for a third year.

Young squad members Finlay Armond (midfield), Jake Frestle (keeper), Ben Sault (midfield) and Owen Sheriff (defender) may have four appearances between them but Cox believes they have something to offer as he has invited them back for pre-season training.

Seven players have been released by the Pilgrims after their contracts are about to end.

Club captain and fans favourite Jay Rollins will leave the club after seven years with Boston.

Long-term injuries and a ban for gambling have seen him make just one start and two appearances off the bench this term, nowhere near enough game time to convince Cox to extend his stay.

Another crowdpleaser to exit is Andi Thanoj, his five-year stay over.

Like Rollins, the midfield playmaker failed to find his stride this season, missing five months through a ban for historic gambling.

Veteran Paul Green has also been released after two seasons - and a brief caretaker manager stint - with Boston.

The 39-year-old former Republic of Ireland international - who combines playing with a new role as Doncaster Rovers' youth development phase transition coach - has been one of the stand-out performers over the past month.

There will probably be few eyebrows raised as keeper Peter Crook, midfielder Connor Dimaio and defenders Matt Tootle and Jake Wright Snr have also been let go.

Crook and Dimaio have both had loan spells this campaign, at Peterborough Sports and Curzon Ashton respectively, while Wright snr and Tootle have both missed chunks of the campaign through injury.

Loanees Marcus Dewhurst, James Hanson, Joe Leesley, Ntumba Massanka and Femi Seriki have also left the club.

Under contract: Luke Shiels.

New contract: Brad Abbott

Under 24s offered deals: Keenan Ferguson, Fraser Preston.

Terms being discussed: Jordan Burrow, Shane Byrne, Scott Duxbury, Danny Elliott, Scott Garner, Brad Nicholson, Tom Platt, Jake Wright jnr.

Invited to pre-season: Finlay Armond, Jake Frestle, Ben Sault, Owen Sheriff.

Out of contract, no deals offered: Peter Crook, Connor Dimaio, Paul Green, Jay Rollins, Andi Thanoj, Matt Tootle, Jake Wright snr.

Returning loanees: Marcus Dewhurst, James Hanson, Joe Leesley, Ntumba Massanka, Femi Seriki.

MORE PILGRIMS: Cox has list of targets - news

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