SOUTHEND United's plans for promotion next season have been thrown into turmoil, with three of their biggest stars being placed on the transfer list.

Current player of the year Nicky Bailey, full-back Simon Francis and centre-back Peter Clarke have all been made available by chairman Ron Martin after talks broke down over new contracts, despite them all having at least a year left on their current deals.

The news means 19 members of last season's squad could now end up departing during the summer, leaving just eight senior players contracted to the club.

And the news was greeted with astonishment by disgruntled Shrimpers supporters.

"An absolute disgrace - that's what this is," slammed one fan.

"The players are still under contract and should see their deals out. Ron has decimated the playing core of this club inside a couple of weeks and it is a disgrace."

Other supporters, posting on, revealed they were thinking of asking for a refund on their season card, while another feared a backlash on Blues owner Martin.

And to add to fans' anger: l Midfielder Alan McCormack has also turned down a year's extension to his current deal l Goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan is believed to be disappointed at being offered just a year long deal to stay at the club after eight seasons of solid performances between the sticks l Winger Mark Gower, who is soon to be out of contract, also faces an uncertain future at Blues with Championship side Swansea City keen on taking him to the Liberty Stadium But Martin stood firm on his decision and explained he would not be held to ransom by the trio of players.

"We have been unable to agree revised contracts with Peter, Simon and Nick," said Martin.

"All three refused improved contracts and as a consequence we will transfer list them with immediate effect and use those proceeds to reinvest back into the squad.

"The football club won't be held to ransom by players and their agents. We would rather have players here that truly wish to be so."

Martin's decision came as a surprise to Francis' agent Tommy Cunningham, who insisted the defender wanted to stay with the Shrimpers.

"This is news to me and I'm surprised by it to say the very least," he said.

"Southend spoke to us and we went back with an counter-deal which is how it works in this industry.

"Normally you hold more talks again and meet somewhere in the middle. I was waiting for the club to come back to me.

"I haven't heard back from them since the middle of last week and Simon doesn't want to leave.

"This has come as a shock to me and obviously we'll be contacting the club to try and hold more talks."

The Echo were unable to make contact with Clarke, who is currently away on holiday, or Bailey.


>Released: Tommy Black, Kevin Maher, Che Wilson, Lewis Hunt and Steve Collis >Transfer-listed: Peter Clarke, Gary Hooper, Simon Francis, Nicky Bailey, Richie Foran, Matt Harrold and Charlie MacDonald >Soon to be out of contract: Darryl Flahavan and Mark Gower >Listed for loan: Clarke Masters, Peggy Lokando and Charles Ademeno >Returned to clubs after being on loan at Blues: Charlie Mulgrew and Hal Robson-Kanu