ALAN Knill has admitted he is planning for life without his inspirational skipper Stephen Dawson.

The 24-year-old Irish midfielder, who has won the club’s Player of the Year award for the last two seasons, has turned down a new contract offer and is talking with other clubs about a move away from Gigg Lane.

Knill would dearly love to keep his midfield lynchpin, who is being linked with a move to newly promoted neighbours Rochdale, but admits it will be a struggle to retain his services.

“I think we are going to lose Stephen,” said Knill. “I spoke to him on Wednesday and he is still to sign a new contract.

“He wants to play at a higher level and nobody can knock him for that. He has been excellent for us for two years and he will be a big hole to fill.

“It’s now up to him to find a suitable club and there is a little bit of me that hopes he will still stay. But we have to be realistic and look at other options.”

Knill released his retained list yesterday and among the casualties were former skipper Paul Scott and goalkeeper Wayne Brown.

Midfielders Richie Baker, Danny Racchi, Damien Allen and Josh Rothwell were also allowed to leave the club.

Efe Sodje, David Buchanan, Stephen Dawson, Ryan Cresswell, Tom Newey, Cameron Belford, Brian Barry-Murphy and Andy Morrell have all been offered new contracts.

“It’s a difficult time of year when you have to let players go but we have to keep things turning over,” said Knill.

“Scotty and Wayne have both been great servants to the club but we felt it was time for change.

“Damien has suffered with injury and not been able to play for us, which was disappointing, while Richie and Danny have not really taken their chance when it came along.

“They have been on the fringes of the team but we felt they were not pushing hard enough.”

Knill is now crossing his fingers that those offered new terms will commit their futures to the club.

“A lot of players were wanting wage rises this summer but that is not possible,” admitted Knill, who said he has a ‘competitive’ budget this summer. “We can’t do it because the money isn’t there.

“We have made some offers of reduced terms and, while the initial reaction was a ‘No’, we hope they will be realistic and sign on with us because there is no money out there at the moment.”

Knill, who is now pressing on with enticing fresh blood to the club, added: “It is moving slowly at the moment but the talks we have had with people have been positive.

“We are hopeful we can attract some quality to the club and the way we play attracts players to come here.

“We have not got the money to buy anybody or go for the very best paid players in the league but we are confident we can convince some good players to come to the club.”