Free agent Neil Austin wishes former club Hartlepool United well as he looks for new deal elsewhere

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Neil Austin hopes to see Hartlepool United prosper next season even though he won’t be there after confirmation his six-year spell has come to an end.

Austin, who had been offered reduced terms to stay, is now set for pastures new and the no-nonsense defender has praised the fans - who he describes as the most loyal in the country.

Austin, who played 50 games last season, is one of nine players to leave as manager Ronnie Moore revamps his squad.

Seven new faces have arrived and the Yorkshireman believes the future is bright for his former club.

“Without a doubt I wish the club, the fans, the staff and the players all the best,” said the free agent.

“I would like to thank the fans for their support during the time I have been here and for their loyalty – to go through what they have been through over the last three years and still keep coming in their numbers is amazing.

“Away from home the support has been incredible too and I have to say I think you will struggle to find more loyal fans anywhere in the country so I wish them all the best.”

The former Barnsley and Darlington defender - who signed from rivals Darlington - made 248 appearances for Pools, scoring 12 goals. He was crowned Fans’ and Players’ Player of the Year during his maiden campaign.

Austin, who missed just eight minutes of action last year, believes the drama of the Great Escape won’t be repeated.

He added: “It was absolutely unbelievable – to be honest, I can’t see that happening again in football with the amount of points we were behind.

“It’s a credit to the spirit in the squad and it’s fair play to Ronnie Moore for getting the players going and getting in some new signings that helped make a difference.

“I think that feeling after the Exeter game was up there with the best I’ve ever had in football – I was certainly more emotional than when I got promoted with Barnsley.

“It’s the first time I have had tears in my eyes on a football pitch and I remember the fans streaming on to the pitch telling us the scores in the other games and that we were safe.” Moore wished the 32-year-old well, adding: “A lot of the players that have gone have been fantastic servants for the club.”