Chester: Sam Hughes & James Alabi offered deals by National League club

Sam Hughes' late winning goal in the 1-0 win at Torquay on 1 April ultimately proved to be the goal that kept Chester up
Sam Hughes' late winner in the 1-0 win at Torquay ultimately proved to be the goal that kept Chester up

Chester have released six players following their close brush with relegation from the National League.

Defender Sam Hughes and striker James Alabi have both been offered improved deals by City, who finished 19th.

But the club understand that both players "will explore their options".

The six to be let go are Chester's former Wrexham trio, winger Elliott Durrell and defenders Blaine Hudson and Johnny Hunt, as well as defenders Ross Killock and Kieran Evans and striker Kane Richards.

Defender Theo Vassell and goalkeeper Liam Roberts both return to Walsall following their season-long loan, as does midfielder Ryan Lloyd to relegated Port Vale.

The highly-rated Hughes, 20, who was even made captain by manager Jon McCarthy towards the end of the season, is understood to be coveted by several Championship clubs, including Barnsley and QPR.

Top scorer Alabi, 22, hit 17 goals - a total by the ex-Scunthorpe and Ipswich man that was bettered only by seven other National League strikers.

We've reached our level - Maguire

After slumping from seventh on Boxing Day to finish the season just two points clear of trouble, ending the season with eight straight home defeats, Chester fans have called for change at Bumpers Lane.

But chief executive Mark Maguire sees the bigger picture for a reformed, fan-owned club who have now had four seasons in the non-league top flight since winning three successive promotions after having to restart life down in the eighth tier in 2010.

And he totally backs manager Jon McCarthy, who has been guaranteed greater funds next season.

Bumpers Lane has been home to football in Chester since 1992
Bumpers Lane has been home to football in Chester since 1992

Maguire told BBC Radio Merseyside: "This club has reached its level financially.

"We've limped over the line. But I've been desperate for the season to end, so now the real work can start. We have loads of stuff in the pipeline.

"We're working on what we need to do across the board. It's not just about the make-up of the playing squad, but the whole club.

"It's about being accountable to the fans. And I'm convinced that the fan-owned model can really succeed. AFC Wimbledon have done brilliantly."

Analysis

Neil Turner, BBC Radio Merseyside

There are two surprises in the retained list, first the release of defender Jonny Hunt, one of the more consistent performers in the Chester squad, who was awarded the 'players' player of the season' gong at the club's awards night.

The other surprise in the published list is that more players weren't released. Chester struggled, particularly in the second half of the campaign, losing their final six matches of the season - and failing to record a home victory in 2017.

It was thought that there would be a more severe cull of an underachieving squad to free up budget and bring in much-needed proven National League players, to improve a team that only avoided relegation by two points.

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