GRAHAM HEATHCOTE has paid tribute to three outgoing Altrincham players after reluctantly bringing their Moss Lane careers to an end this week.

Chris Lane, Warren Peyton and Joe O'Neill have all been released to make way for the new signings Heathcote feels are essential to give his side the best chance of another successful campaign in the Blue Square Conference next season.

'It has been a very difficult week, because I have had to make some hard decisions and tell these lads they are not being kept on,' said the Alty manager. 'In an ideal world, I would keep last season's squad intact and add a few new faces, but reality dictates that we can't do that.

'The budget has been reduced slightly, so it was a case of sticking with what we'd got, and risking going stale by Christmas, or making some room to freshen things up. It had to be the latter, and those three lads have been given news they did not deserve.

'They can all count themselves extremely unlucky, because their attitude has been exemplary throughout their time here. They have never missed training and always given 100 per cent, and whoever takes them on is going to be getting quality players, in terms of dedication, determination and a desire to give their all, every time they pull on a shirt.'

Heathcote admitted he faced a waiting game for any incoming transfers but underlined his determination to recuit the players who can help Alty at least emulate last season's outstanding achievement in finishing 15th, 12 points clear of the relegation places.

'It is going to be a game of patience now, because there is only so much money to play with and players are going to be looking for the best deal they can get,' he said. 'But there are going to be plenty looking for new clubs. It isn't a case of four or five being released by clubs this summer, it is more like 10 or 12.

'The nucleus of the squad is in place, because I have reached agreement with eight from last season and made offers to another three. I have still to speak with a couple of others but don't anticipate any problems with them. I want a minimum of three new faces, and I am prepared to wait for the right ones.'