LEE JOHNSON has pledged to get ruthless with out-of-contract Barnsley players – and warned those who have been offered fresh terms that he wants quick decisions.
With the Reds now out of play-off contention in League One, Johnson’s thoughts have switched to 2015-16 and the Oakwell head coach will start talks with those whose deals expire at the end of the season in the next week to 10 days.
Originally, Barnsley intended to start contract negotiations next month, but discussions have been brought forward.
Those who are coming off contract include defenders Martin Cranie, Lewin Nyatanga and Jean-Yves M’Voto, along with Kane Hemmings, Rhys Oates and Nana Boakye-Yiadom.
Last week, Johnson spoke about his desire for Cranie and Nyatanga to stay at Oakwell, but his latest comments suggest that he will move onto other targets if they and any others offered fresh terms prevaricate.
Johnson, who wants to capture between eight and 12 players in time for next season – with that number including several players he wants to re-sign – said: “We are actually going to be quite ruthless this year, there’s no doubting that.
“There’s a lot of good players on the market and it is not one of those situations where we are going to leave offers open for too long.
“There’s been enough people who have shown their interest in coming to the club that means we can almost be quite bolshy with it – and that’s not being rude.
“We feel we can be quite strong in terms of what people’s market value is by offering the ones we want to retain good, fair money.
“If they don’t fancy it, then we move on quickly.
“If that doesn’t happen then at the back end of the summer, if you haven’t replaced them with what you see as better, then, of course, you can talk again.
“What we have done is get a recruitment team in place and we are ready.
“Last season sounded a bit of a scramble in pre-season. I want to go into the season with the majority of my squad in place. I want winning type mentality players coming in early.
“I think it will be between eight and 12 (players), in my opinion, and that includes the ones who we want to re-sign.”
Mapping out the timescale, he added: “We will be talking to the players out of contract over the next week to 10 days on who we want to retain and those who we see it is best for their careers if they move on.
“Then we are ready for next year, which is exciting. The team building process is the best bit really and everyone should be excited and hopeful.
“We are in the market for good players and if we get ones who fall into our wage bracket, then we will be flying.”
Johnson believes his strong position in terms of contract negotiations is born out by the feedback he and his recruitment team, headed by Brian Young, have received from a number of potential summer signings.
The signs are that Barnsley will have no problem in attracting the requisite quality of player that Johnson is after this summer, a marked contrast to his experiences at former club Oldham, where he was forced to plunder the bargain basement during much of his time at Boundary Park.
Johnson became renowned for successfully offering a second chance to a number of discarded players in his spell with the Latics, who operated with one of the smallest budgets in League One during his tenure.
Now the 33-year-old, who has an extensive database with details about prospective new signings, believes he will be able to shop at a different level and intends using that advantage to the full.
Johnson, who confirmed he would be interested in ex-loan winger John O’Sullivan if he was made available by Blackburn Rovers, added: “I am confident without being arrogant.
“I know we are a decent pull for the division and can get good players in because of our location in the country and that we are a fairly big club and people want to play in front of nine or 10 thousand and, hopefully, 12,000-14,000 fans on a regular basis next year. I wanted to make myself better as player when I played and you can here.
“You have coaches who are willing to put the time in on an individual basis and people pushing you and competition everywhere. It is all conducive to going forward.
“It is never good to have a big turnaround because it is difficult to build. But, let’s be honest, we failed this year.
“You would expect a club like this to hit the top six as a standard.”