After culling 11 players this week, Mansfield Town have begun the tough task of formulating a slimmer squad that can bring them League Two success next season.
The Stags need to bring in new talent, but club finances dictate manager Paul Cox will need to go with a smaller squad and reduced budget from last season.
“Now the lads all know where their futures lies, you look at the positions the club needs to fill. It’s just sieving through lists of players now,” said assistant boss Adam Murray.
“We must make sure they are going to fit our ethos, what we are about, and can take us a step further. We can’t afford to make mistakes.”
“People are aware that in January there was a change in figures and the strings were pulled in a bit.
People are also aware we are going to run with a smaller squad and we are going to have to get the best for the money we have got.
“If that means players who can play multiple positions doing multiple jobs then that’s what we’ll have to do along with that X-factor in particular areas.
“We still want to be successful and competitive and do the best with what we are given.”
With boss Cox away as players returned from their post-season break, the squad learned their fate from assistant boss Murray on Friday.
He said: “The manager had gone on a pre-booked trip while the lads had gone straight off to a break after the end of season dinner, so that crossover didn’t help.
“But the manager didn’t want to keep players waiting and not give them the best chance to find other clubs. It is part of my job description as assistant manager but it’s not easy as I’ve gone through thick and thin with a lot of them.
“I have a good relationship with a lot of them. I have sweated bloods and guts with them. But it is part of my role here.
“This is one of the worst times for footballers and staff and you don’t look forward to doing it.
“Obviously it is one of those things that has to happen, though. It’s the cycle of football – players come and players go.
“We sat down on Friday and let the lads know our plans for next season.
“You’ve got to look at the journey we have been on. There have been a lot of players at the club over the last few years who have brought a lot to the table. But you have to ask, can certain players take you where you want to go and does the squad need freshening up? Then you look at the targets you’d like to bring in and make decisions on people.”
Biggest surprise on Friday was probably the departure of James Jennings, who played 36 times last season.
Murray said: “A number of these lads have been together for a while now, and when you have a group together that long it needs freshening up a bit to bring a bit of a buzz back to them.
“It was one of the toughest decisions as JJ has had a decent season.
“But maybe we can bring in some different attributes to that position?”
On the players offered new deals, he added: “The players will sit down with the gaffer next week and talk pounds and pence. They will have a lot of people in their ears and options coming up.
“As a footballer you have to weigh up what is best for you and your family and make decisions where you are going to go.”
Murray admitted that bigger clubs may yet come in to chase under-contract players like Sam Clucas and Ryan Tafazolli over the summer.
“There are some very good young boys here and there will be a lot of interest in them,” he said.
“You look at the list of scouts that come here Saturdays and Tuesdays and it’s endless.
“These things happen so you can’t say yes or no. If someone comes in then it’s up to the manager and chairman and, if the offer is right, if the player wants to go.”