Harrogate Town sign exciting youngster to new deal as nine players are released

Harrogate Town have released nine of this season's squad, including former Rotherham United defender Joe Mattock and goalkeepers Jonathan Mitchell and Pete Jameson.

They are joined by Lewis Thomas, Will Smith, George Horbury, Finn O’Boyle, Brad Williams and Emmanuel Ilesanmi in not having their contracts renewed for next season.

But the Sulphurites have tied down exciting forward Sam Folarin to a new deal, and have offered terms to Stephen Dooley and Levi Sutton.

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The Middlesbrough youth product scored eight goals in his second season at Wetherby Road -doubling his 2022-23 tally – as Harrogate recorded their highest Football League finish, 13th in League Two.

STAYING PUT: Sam Folarin, posing in next season's Harrogate Town shirtSTAYING PUT: Sam Folarin, posing in next season's Harrogate Town shirt
STAYING PUT: Sam Folarin, posing in next season's Harrogate Town shirt

“It’s a big year for Sam in his development as a footballer," said manager Simon Weaver. "If he gets it right and gets himself fit then he is a huge asset to this football club.

“I would like to think Sam and the people around him recognise the history this club has with developing young players. We want to be a springboard for players of his quality to kick-on in the rest of their careers.”

Folarin called extending his stay "a no-brainer", saying: "The gaffer (Weaver) and Thirls (assistant manager Paul Thirlwell) have given me strong backing in my time here. Last season, they played me up front which was a little bit of an unusual role for me. They backed me and gave me confidence, I ended up scoring a few goals from that position as well.

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"Pre-season is going to be really important for me. We have a lot of competition for places across the forward line so I want to use that to my advantage and push my game on again."

Weaver praised the attitudes of all those who will be leaving the club, and promised to help them where he could to find a new club.

Mattock joined on a free transfer from Rotherham two summer ago, but only managed 26 league starts for the North Yorkshire club, making seven more on loan at Hartlepool United in the middle of the season just gone.

Jameson spent the whole campaign on loan at Victoria Park having asked to leave in search of first-team football after losing his place to Mark Oxley.

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When a ruptured calf tendon forced Oxley to undergo surgery in the autumn, Weaver brought in Mitchell – a free agent since being released by Doncaster Rovers this time last year and another with Hartlepool connections.

But the return of James Belshaw, initially on an emergency loan from Bristol Rovers, then a permanent deal when the transfer window opened, settled the goalkeeping question in his favour.

Leeds-born Smith, a Barnsley academy product, was part of the Harrogate team which won the Conference play-off final in 2020, and returned to Wembley the following year to lift the FA Trophy in the Covid-19-delayed final.

Horbury and Ilesanmi made history with their progress from the academy to the first team, but neither made a League Two start.

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Ilesanmi was the first graduate to play for the senior team, and Horbury the first to sign professionally for the Sulphurites but ultimately neither has been able to make the grade. Meanwhile, Harrogate have confirmed two home pre-season friendlies, against Huddersfield Town on July 13 and Lincoln City on 27th. Both are due to kick off at 3pm.

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