Decision to release Brendan Kiernan and Ed Francis was 'extremely tough' for Harrogate Town boss Simon Weaver

Eight out-of-contract players will depart Harrogate Town this summer, with some of the names not included on the club's retained list for 2021/22 more of a surprise than others.

Monday, 17th May 2021, 11:19 am
Updated Monday, 17th May 2021, 11:22 am
Brendan Kiernan in action for Harrogate Town during this month's FA Trophy final at Wembley Stadium. Picture: Getty Images

Goalkeeper Joe Cracknell was the only member of Simon Weaver s squad whose deal was due to expire to be offered an extension at Wetherby Road.

Thus, fellow gloveman Melvin Minter, defenders Jake Lawlor and Jay Williams, midfielders Calvin Miller, Scott Brown and Ed Francis and forward Brendan Kiernan have all been released, along with striker Jon Stead, who had already announced his intention to retire.

The writing had been on the wall for some time for Miller, 23, and Brown, 36, who were loaned out to Notts County and Warrington Town respectively as Weaver admitted that neither player was likely to play any further part for the Sulphurites.

Ed Francis. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Third-choice stopper Minter, 26, never played a game, while Lawlor, 30, has only ever really been used as cover at centre-half, the last of his 17 League Two appearances for the club coming in mid-February. Given that he has not even been included in a match-day squad since mid-March, his exit seemed inevitable.

Former Northampton Town prospect Williams, 20, has been a bit part player since arriving in January, though his relatively young age and the fact that he clearly boasts a lot of raw potential makes it somewhat more surprising that he was not offered a further year.

But it is the decisions not to retain live-wire attacker Kiernan, nor former Manchester City midfielder Francis that have left some fans disappointed.

Kiernan, 28, recently bagged a 23-minute hat-trick against Cambridge United in a match billed as an opportunity for Harrogate's fringe players to prove their worth ahead of the new campaign, while Francis, 21, has looked a classy operator pretty much every time he set foot on the pitch.

And Weaver has conceded that the calls on both of these men were "extremely tough" to make.

"Of course it was difficult with Brendan, particularly given that brilliant first half against Cambridge not so long ago," the Town boss told the Harrogate Advertiser.

"He has contributed so much off the pitch as well as on it and come into training every day with a big smile on his face. He's very much our kind of guy

"He made the step up from Welling to join us in the National League - where he was on fire during the first half of the season - and then another step up to the EFL last summer. He has given everything.

"It was a really tight decision, but I feel Brendan deserves the opportunity to be a front-line player somewhere."

On Francis, who impressed in both his natural position in the centre of the park as well as in an auxiliary left-back role, Weaver added: "It was certainly another difficult call.

"We were actually discussing a longer deal with Ed earlier on in the season, but he put a pause on those talks because it was at a time when he had just come out of the team, which was understandable.

"When we've looked at it again, we just felt that Josh [Falkingham], Lloyd [Kerry] and Thommo [George Thomson] were the players who have excelled in the middle of the park this term.

"I think Ed is best suited to a 4-3-3 or when we played the midfield diamond and obviously we usually tend to go with the 4-4-2 system. What we probably need to add is a like-for-like box-to-box midfielder."