Preston North End manager Simon Grayson admits that he will be making some tough decisions when compiling the retained list ready for the Lilywhites’ return to the Championship.
Grayson had meetings with the players yesterday as he began his squad-building plans for the 2015/16 campaign.
More than a dozen of them are out of contract next month and there will inevitably be departures as Grayson plans for the step up to the second tier of English football.
New deals are in the pipeline for some of the squad who helped win promotion.
Several others remain under contract until the end of next season.
Grayson told the Evening Post: “The nature of being in the play-offs means you are three weeks behind other clubs so you have different plans in place, in terms of pre-season and player recruitment.
“We will be announcing the retained list at the back end of the week.
“There are some difficult decisions to make because we have a group of players here which is the best I have worked with as a manager.
“However, we cannot stand still as a club, we have to move on and bring in some better players to move us forward.
“Whoever leaves will go with my best wishes and I’ll be highly recommending them.
“These players have been absolute diamonds to work with on the pitch, in training and off the pitch.
“Anyone who leaves will go on to have great careers – they will get contracts at other clubs and won’t be short of offers.
“It is a balance between new contract offers and players leaving the club.
“New players will be coming in – that happens every year regardless of whether you have been promoted or not.
“You have always got to change the squad around a bit, keep things fresh.”
Those approaching the end of their current contracts include Paul Huntington, John Welsh, Tom Clarke, Scott Laird, Chris Humphrey, Kevin Davies, David Buchanan, Thorsten Stuckmann, Scott Wiseman, Sylvan Ebanks-Blak and Jack King, who confirmed his exit on social media.
King is joining Scunthorpe United on a two-year deal.
Lee Holmes and Keith Keane, who ended the season on loan to Exeter and Stevenage respectively, are also out of contract.
With regards to incoming transfers, securing the services of loanees Paul Gallagher, Jermaine Beckford and Sam Johnstone is a high priority.
Said Grayson: “How many players we bring in will be determined by the size of the budget for transfer fees and wages.
“We want to sign Beckford, Gallagher and Johnstone. Those three are top of my list.”
PNE’s promotion will net them an extra £3.5m next season. Wages are higher in the Championship though, which eats into the larger solidarity payment.
John Kay, Preston’s chief executive, said: “In League One you get £900,000 a season and that goes up to £4.4m in the Championship.
“Against that, players have higher aspirations in terms of wages, so we have that balance to sort out.
“We are delighted to be back in the Championship, that has been what everyone has been working towards.
“Three weeks ago we went through that torture on the last day at Colchester but we then mullered the play-offs.
“We are aspiring to be pushing at the top end of the next division.
“We’ll need to make a few improvements, as everyone does when they are promoted.
“A lot of work will be done over the next month putting things into place ready for the new season. This is an exciting time for everyone at the club.”