BASINGSTOKE Town face a fight to keep hold of young goalkeeper Joe McDonnell after his excellent form at the end of the season attracted the attention of Football League clubs.
The 20-year-old, who is a product of the club’s academy, enjoyed a successful loan spell at Hendon, and then put in a string of fine performances when pressed into action for Town after injury ended Louis Wells’ season.
With Wells released by the club last week, McDonnell looked favourite to be handed the goalkeeper’s jersey for next season – but things may not be that straightforward.
Town manager Jason Bristow said: “Joe came into the team on merit at the end of the season and proved that he is a good goalkeeper.
“His performances raised a bit of awareness of him, so there are other clubs looking at him as well.
“We have got to do the right thing by Joe. We hope we can keep hold of him, but if not, we need to make sure he goes to a club where he can progress.”
Several professional clubs are thought to be interested in signing McDonnell, who lives in Basingstoke, and went to Cranbourne Business and Enterprise College. However, Town would be due a fee for the goalkeeper, which could allow them to negotiate a loan deal if he does move on.
Goalkeeper Wells was one of eight players allowed to leave the club last week, but manager Jason Bristow is not planning to bring in a host of new faces.
Defenders Ross Adams and Adam Green, midfielders Wes Daly and Neil Barrett and strikers Jordace Holder-Spooner, Robbie Matthews and Kezie Ibe will not return to the Camrose for the 2014-15 season.
Despite this, the number of players committed to Town for the 2014-15 season is now up to 10 after winger Louie Soares signed a contract for next season.
However, that number includes just one new signing, left-back Tom Bird, and Bristow does not expect that many more to follow him into the club.
“I do not see too many new faces coming in, maybe three or four,” he said. “The guys we have signed already give us great versatility, and we just need to build around them.”
Bristow is hoping that striker Manny Williams will put pen to paper on a new deal at the Camrose in the near future, but expects Nicholas Bignall to secure a move to a club in a higher division.
However, the Town boss may well be in the market for a goalkeeper if McDonnell moves on, while he is also in the market for a holding midfielder and at least one more striker, but will not be rushed into making signings.
He added: “Last year, we had our squad in place by pre-season, but this year we plan to use the friendly games to look at more players, so it will be an interesting time.”
Of the players allowed to leave the Camrose, the departure of Daly, who has joined Conference South new-boys Hemel Hempstead Town, is perhaps the biggest surprise, not least because the playmaker was made captain last summer.
Bristow said: “We were trying to get a new contract sorted out for Wes but he had other offers and when the chance to join Hemel Hempstead came up, he decided it was time for a new challenge.
“I would like to thank all of the players for their efforts in their time at the club. I am sure they will find other clubs and do really well.”
Basingstoke have announced that they will host Conference Premier outfit Woking in a friendly fixture at the Camrose on Saturday, August 2.