CHRIS Casper claims Tom Kennedy was ready for a fresh challenge in his career after releasing him from the club on Wednesday.

Kennedy was one of seven players told that their contract would not be renewed this week, as the Shakers cleared the decks for a busy summer in the transfer market.

The 21-year-old left back had made over 150 appearances for the first team since making his debut under Andy Preece in December, 2003, but Casper said his time at the club has reached a logical end.

"Tom has been a really good servant to the club but I thought that something needed to be freshened up, not just for us, but for Tom's sake too," Casper said.

"He has been with the club since he was 12 or 13, so it will do him good to work with new players and new staff."

Tom, son of Gigg Lane legend Keith Kennedy, has found himself out of favour towards the end of the season, with 38-year-old veteran Colin Woodthorpe brought into the side to provide experience.

Woodthorpe has earned himself a new short-term deal, but Casper was quick to point out that the decision to release Kennedy was not personal.

"I just felt it was time for everyone to move on," he said.

"I'd like to make it clear that Tom has not been a problem whatsoever during his time with me, and I'd wish him all the best for the future."

Fellow defender John Fitzgerald was another surprising name axed from the squad, after spending much of the first half of the season alongside Dave Challinor at centre-half.

The young Irishman, who was signed following a loan spell from Blackburn Rovers in 2005, made 26 appearances this season but, like Kennedy, he found himself out of favour when Darran Kempson arrived on loan from Crewe.

"John has been another player who has been great over the last couple of seasons for me," Casper added. "I just felt we needed something different - but in now way was it down to the individual lads. They have been superb."

Striker Tom Youngs had struggled to cement a place in the side for the majority of the season, but scored twice in his last three appearances before being released.

Youngster Damien Quigley, goalkeeper Alan Fettis and striker Matthew Tipton were also shown the door - with veteran full-back Chris Brass invited back to pre-season training to prove his full fitness.

"For whatever reason, this season has been a disappointment," Casper said.

"In no way can you say it is down to the lads who have been released, that is just a decision that I have had to make.

"It is the opportunity I have to take to freshen things up and get one or two new faces in.

"I can't afford to be sentimental, just because there is a great spirit in the dressing room. It's my job to keep this club moving forward - and that is just the choice I had to make."

Casper is understood to have had full control of the retained list, but transfer policy over the summer is likely to be transferred to new director of football Keith Alexander.