DEAN SAUNDERS admits he is resigned to losing captain Ashley Westwood to Kettering Town.
The experienced centre-half, Saunders’ second signing when he took over as manager in October 2008, has been offered a new contract at The Racecourse on slightly lesser terms.
However, Conference rivals Kettering have offered Northamptonshire-based Westwood, who has celebrated four promotions in his career, a longer deal.
And Saunders, who has already completed the signing of centre-back Chris Blackburn from Aldershot this summer, will now focus on bringing in a replacement for 33-year-old Westwood if he moves on.
“It looks like Ashley might be leaving,” said Saunders. “I made him an offer, it was less than last year but still a really good offer. But Kettering have offered him a two-year deal.
“Kettering is nearer to where Ashley lives down in Northampton and it is disappointing he has gone.
“But I can replace Ashley, no problem. There are some really good centre-backs I can sign.”
While he is looking to bolster his defence, Saunders knows that recruiting more strikers remains a prority if he is to address last season’s poor goalscoring record.
Saunders revealed he has made offers for two strikers and the Reds’ boss believes it will be an advanatge to bring in frontmen who are also capable of playing in wide positions.
“I have got to sort out the other end of the pitch,” said Saunders. “I have put offers in for two strikers which I am hoping will come off.
“One is a forward and the other can also play wide and up front.
“I have got to get a centre-forward in and a couple who can play up-front as well as out wide if I can.
“I have made a couple of offers and I am waiting to see what they say.”
Saunders is waiting to hear if former Wales international Gareth Taylor accepts the offer of a new contract.
“Nothing has happened with Gareth yet,” said Saunders.
Fellow striker Marc Williams has been offered a six-month contract by Saunders following another injury plagued season.
As well as suffering from a goal drought last season, Williams broke the same metatarsal that had brought the previous campaign to a premature end.
And Saunders is hoping Williams can put his injury nightmare behind him and recapture the form that saw him finish the 2008-09 season with 17 goals and the Player of the Year award.
“Marc has had a shocking 12 months,” said Saunders. “I was banking on him banging the goals in last season but his foot had not healed. He had an X-ray and we found out it was broken.
“Hopefully it is all behind Marc now and he comes back in pre-season, he hits the ground running and get some goals.”
Saunders has agreed a month to month contract with former Shrewsbury Town and Chester City left-back Neil Ashton who began training with Wrexham earlier this year following a hernia operation, and he remains optimistic ex-Swansea City midfielder Kristian O’Leary, who joind the Reds on a short-term deal in March, will commit himself to the Reds for another season.
But despite rejecting a new contract offer, defender Aaron Brown, another player brought in at the back end of last season, has been back in touch with Saunders who is keeping his cards close to his chest.
“Aaron has got back to me after orginially saying no,” said Saunders. “But I am still keeping my options open on that.”
See full story in the Leader