Steve Bruce wants to tie stars to new contracts at Hull City
STEVE Bruce is planning to hold talks with the Hull City board next week as he bids to address a "mind-blowing" list of players approaching the end of their current deals.
Bruce has revealed 15 players are due to see their existing contracts expire at the end of the season, a group including current top scorer Jay Simpson, Liam Rosenior, Paul McKenna, Andy Dawson, Abdoulaye Faye, Paul McShane and Seyi Olofinjana.
Although it is a figure swollen by a host of youngsters unproven in the Championship, Bruce is keen to start shaping the long-term future of his squad before the turn of the year.
"I've got a meeting with the owners next week and we've got 15 people out of contract in less than 12 months, and that's mind-blowing," Bruce told the Mail, ahead of tomorrow's home game with Ipswich Town.
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"There's going to be a lot of work needed to be done over the next six to nine months.
"You need to be prepared and it's not healthy when you have so many in their last year.
"The big thing will be to speak with the owners about budgets and where we are next year, but it's very difficult to plan ahead when you're not sure which division you'll be in.
"If you really want to keep someone, you'd want them to be tied up before Christmas, so we'll make sure we sit down and make plans.
"The last thing you want to see is your best players leaving for free. We want to tie those up as quickly as we possibly can."
Of the starting XI that earned a 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday last time out, only Sone Aluko and Stephen Quinn are currently bound to the KC Stadium beyond next summer.
As well as Ben Amos and Ahmed Elmohamady, who are on season-long loans from Manchester United and Sunderland respectively, seven other starters are all set to see their deals expire in nine months.
The onus will be placed on the out-of-contract players to prove their worth in the remainder of the season but the majority of decisions will not be made imminently.
While veterans such as McKenna, Faye and Dawson are likely to be judged towards the end of the season, Olofinjana and McShane would have to accept reduced wages from their current Premier League contracts if they were to stand any chance of staying with City.
Youngsters Mark Oxley, Liam Cooper, Jamie Devitt, Mark Cullen, Danny East, Sonny Bradley and Danny Emerton will also need to prove their value to Bruce.
The priority in contract negotiations is likely to be placed first upon retaining Simpson and Rosenior, who could both command a market price in January, and Bruce has praised the application of Simpson after an impressive start to the final year of his deal.
"I would love to turn round and say it's all down to me but the cynic inside of me thinks it might have something to do with Jay being out of contract in six months," said Bruce.
"Is he better hungry to get that contract? Who knows. A few of them who are into the final year of their deals have got to be playing for a contract because there's a cold wind that blows over the Championship.
"It's not like the Premier League and there's a bit of a reality that's set in. I saw a list last week with 400 players who are still not fixed up for clubs from last year which is scary.
"The ones who are out of contract, Jay Simpson in particular, have made me sit up and take note. Five goals in 10 games is a very good return but he's got to keep those standards where he's set them now."