A MAJOR rebuild has begun at Oldham Athletic with Zak Dearnley agreeing a new two-year deal.
The 21-year-old forward looks likely to be a key figure in a new-look side following the release of 11 players with a further five on Covid-19 short-term extensions while their futures are resolved.
Dearnley scored four goals in eight appearances after returning to Boundary Park on a short-term deal until the end of the season.
He had previously had a nine-match loan spell with Latics during 2018-19 season from Manchester United, who released him at the end of that campaign.
Latics explained an option clause in his deal when he returned meant an agreement could be reached regarding a new contract offer, as he is seen as a valuable component of the squad moving forwards.
Dearnley, who made one first team appearance for the Reds against Crystal Palace in 2017, is delighted to be staying with Latics.
He told the club’s website: “I know it’s been tough for everyone over the past few months and there’s more important things than football, so I hope everyone is staying safe and well.
“It’s nice to get my future sorted though and I’m just ready to get back playing when we’re allowed to do so and making sure I continue to show everyone what I can do in front of goal.”
Head coach Dino Maamria added: “I’m delighted to have Zak agree to a new two-year contract, his profile fits in perfectly with the future team we are trying to build.
“He’s still young, ambitious and a determined character with plenty of technical qualities that Oldham supporters can relate with. He’s also an important piece of the jigsaw in rebuilding a new team.”
Latics had already released Alex Iacovitti and Mohamad Sylla before their retained list was announced.
Defender Iacovitti, 22, who arrived from Nottingham Forest in May 2019 after an initial loan spell, had his contract terminated by mutual consent.
Iacovitti, a former Scotland youth international, has moved back north of the border to join Scottish Premier League side Ross County.
Midfielder Sylla, meanwhile, was released at the end of his contract and signed for French third tier side Stade Lavallois.
Sylla, 26, made 51 appearances for Latics since signing in January 2019.
The retained list:
• In contract: Zak Dearnley, Dylan Fage, Tom Hamer, Danny Rowe, David Wheater, Gary Woods.
• Released: Kielen Adams, Desire Segbe Azankpo, Marvin Kokos, Chris McCann, Zak Mills, Javid Swaby-Neavin, Gevaro Nepomuceno, Jamie Stott, Scott Wilson.
• Covid-19 short-term extensions: Johan Branger-Engone, Zeus de la Paz, Tomas Egert, Mohamed Maouche, Christopher Missilou.
• Returned to parent clubs: Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (Manchester United), Mani Dieseruvwe (Salford City), Christian N’Guessan (Burnley FC), Filipe Morais (Crawley Town), Carl Piergianni (Salford City), Jonny Smith (Bristol City).
Covid-19 short-term extensions have been facilitated across EFL clubs to respond to the furlough situation and allows clubs and players more time to resolve their futures. All the players on this list have been offered a two or three-month extension, during which a final decision will be agreed by both parties.
Latics, in a message to fans, added: “In the existing climate, planning for the future is clearly very difficult. Maintaining financial security remains the primary aim and whilst other clubs and their players work through exactly the same issues, it is unlikely we will see many deals being done until dates of return and the conditions under which this will happen are confirmed.
“The head coach is still working with the owner and board to generate a plan for the recruitment of players for the forthcoming campaign.”
Physio Stuart Irwin, 40, has also left Latics to take up a similar post at Blackpool.
Latics have unveiled their 125th anniversary kit with new home and away playing strips for the 2020-21 season.
• In an off-the-field development, the threat of administration that been removed.
A club statement said: “The club is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement with Brass Bank Limited to settle the debt owed to it and secured by a debenture.
“The debenture has been removed at Companies House and the court administration proceedings are now at an end.”