Shirtliff poser for new set up

Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date published: 30 June 2016

PETER Shirtliff could add an invaluable dose of experience to Athletic's staff by staying on at the club as part of a new-look management team.

Athletic's chairman Simon Corney is trying to get a deal over the line to bring in a replacement for John Sheridan, with Shefki Kuqi the clear favourite to become manager as the clock ticks down to the new season.

Athletic's plan is to team up Kuqi with Sean O'Driscoll as a director of football and Shirtliff (55)­- acknowledged as doing an excellent job last term alongside Sheridan ­- is in line to be asked to take on the role as assistant boss.

Shirtliff was a steadying influence as Athletic made a late-season recovery to become safe from relegation with two games left to go.

The former Sheffield Wednesday defender's arrival at the club coincided with a run of 10 clean sheets in 18 outings en route to safety.

Pre-season testing is now due to start on Monday at the University of Bolton. With only 37 days left until the opening Sky Bet League One game at last season's losing play-off finalists Millwall, Athletic's new back-room team will have a huge amount of work ahead to build a squad of players.

Those Athletic players who are not yet signed on for next year see their contracts officially expire today.

Defender James Wilson is talking to Rochdale, Sherwsbury and Leyton Orient and there is no news on any progress towards re-signing Anthony Gerrard, Timothee Dieng, Jonathan Forte, Dominic Poleon or Brian Wilson, while Lee Croft is due back for pre-season in a bid to win a new deal.

Mike Jones joined Carlisle, Joel Coleman has moved to Huddersfield and Liam Kelly had a medical at Orient, though the under-contract captain has yet to complete a switch to the League Two outfit.

Kelly is one of only six players with first-team experience under contract, just over two weeks ahead of the first pre-season friendly against Huddersfield and 17 days beyond Athletic's self-imposed deadline when they said they would hope to have a manager in by.

On May 31, the club posted a statement that read: "Ideally we will have a manager in place by Monday, June 13 to enable squad building to take place in time for pre-season."

Meanwhile, Athletic's teenage trio of Kallum Mantack, Jamie Stott and Lee Knight have signed their first professional deals.

The three were part of a youth team that won the Lancashire FA Youth Cup last season.

FORMER Athletic forward Lewis Alessandra, who had been with Rochdale, has signed for League Two club Hartlepool.