Doncaster Rovers’ talismanic midfielder Richie Wellens insists he has been left with no realistic choice other than to pursue a move away from the club following the collapse of John Ryan and Louis Tomlinson’s takeover.
The 34-year-old is now set to activate a relegation release clause to leave, with the terms of his existing deal allied to a significantly-reduced playing budget after the failed takeover forcing his hand, he says.
Wellens has spoken of his considerable frustration at the budget likely to be at Paul Dickov’s disposal this term, understood to be far lower than a number of League One rivals, while revealing his dismay at the off-the-field situation which has engulfed the club for over 12 months.
Adding to his sense of disquiet is his claim that he turned down approaches from two Championship clubs at the end of last season in order to wait for the proposed takeover to go through – which would have seen him receive a new contract.
The future of James Coppinger is also likely to be away from Rovers with the club stalwart, who had verbally agreed terms on a new contract pending the takeover completion with his existing deal expiring last month, likely to have played his last game for the club.
Meanwhile, Rovers have suffered a second blow in the space of 24 hours at the hands of neighbours Barnsley, who followed up their capture of Keepmoat Stadium triallist and midfielder James Bailey with the signing of goalkeeper Ross Turnbull.
Rovers were keen on retaining Turnbull after his 12-month deal ended in June and had been speaking to the former Chelsea and Middlesbrough custodian throughout the summer, with his exit leaving them without a recognised first-choice goalkeeper.
The moves of free agent Bailey – who spent a week at the start of pre-season at Barnsley – and Turnbull to Oakwell follows the Reds’ beating Rovers to the signing of Jean-Yves M’voto 12 months ago.
Then, as now, Rovers, who had taken M’voto on trial for several weeks, were hamstrung by budget restrictions, enabling Barnsley to take advantage.
The Reds are also in the market for a right-sided midfielder, which could even see Coppinger emerge as a target.
Wellens, who did not play in Tuesday’s friendly win at Grimsby for insurance reasons, with the likes of Coppinger, Paul Keegan and trialist Peter Clarke also absent, said: “Even though I have got a contract here, the fact that we are not going to try and make a big effort to go up again basically forces my hand really.
“At the end of last season, my wages went down a lot more than everyone else’s and I had an 80 per cent cut. Along with the cut, I also had the option that if we did go down, I could leave on a free.
“The frustrating thing about it is that I have said ‘no’ to two Championship clubs.
“When the season ended, I had a meeting with the manager and he was saying: ‘Listen, we are going to go for it and try and go straight back up and win the league.’
“I got offered a new contract and agreed everything, but unfortunately now the takeover won’t happen.
“It puts me in a sticky situation along with several others. I have still got the contract. But on the terms I am on now, there’s no way I can stay.
“I am now on the backfoot as I had felt I did not need to get anywhere, so I have not been looking. Now I am obviously going to have to go and look.
“I still have the option to stay if I really want to. But I do not want to be playing at the bottom end of League One.”
He added: “I feel a bit gutted for the manager.
“He had all the things at Oldham and everyone knew the financial restraints they had which were understandable.
“But ever since he has been at this club, he has been promised a takeover and then another takeover.
“Basically, he’s been operating under the same restrictions as he was at Oldham, although on a far different level where you are competing with clubs with huge wage bills and finances.”
Meanwhile, Rovers have released a statement reassuring fans that they remain committed to the club in the long-term following the collapse of the Ryan-led takeover.
The board held budget meetings with Dickov on Tuesday, with a youthful squad supplemented by experience set to take the field in 2014-15, the emphasis being on achieving sustained success over a period of time and not just one season.
Chief executive Gavin Baldwin said: “The owners have set out a wish to end the process of rebuilding the team on an annual basis and have challenged Paul and I with the task of building a younger squad supported by more experienced professionals to support their development.
“The squad must be capable of providing success for Doncaster Rovers not just in one season, but over a number of years.”