Reds fear double swoop for key midfielders

Hope Akpan could be a target for other clubs

Hope Akpan could be a target for other clubs

First published in Crawley Town

Crawley are bracing themselves for a New Year raid for midfield duo Hope Akpan and Josh Simpson.

Reds boss Richie Barker will make his first signing of the January transfer window today when striker Lateef Elford-Aliyu completes his move from Bury on an initial six-month deal ahead of today’s clash with Colchester United. Barker hopes to bring in two more additions but admits holding on to Akpan and Simpson will be just as crucial to Crawley’s hopes of challenging for the League One play-offs.

The pair – who have scored 11 goals between them – are allowed to talk to other clubs from today after negotiations to extend their current contracts, which run out at the end of the season, were put on hold.

Barker said: “They are two of the ones that are up in the summer so could become targets for other clubs. I am always concerned as they are good players but I haven’t had any contact about them. “I am assuming their agents are working away behind the scenes letting clubs know about them but until somebody contacts me or the chief executive then I don't consider there to have been any approaches.”

Reds opened talks with Akpan and Simpson over a new deal two months ago but Barker insists the fact no progress has been made does not suggest they are angling for a move.

He added: “There were initial talks over arranging new contracts for them and then it was put on the back burner. The club allowed it to get this far and players have allowed it to get this far but I don't think it was ever going to be possible to get it done before January.

“I have said I have got to get people out before I can bring people in and the same thing applies to increasing peoples’ contracts as it all comes from the same pot of money. The first priority is sorting out the ins and outs and then we can look at the contract situation again.

“I do know both of them are enjoying it and have come a long way in a short space of time. Both weren’t in the team regularly last season and are now established players in League One.”

Meanwhile, Elford-Aliyu could make his debut today after joining on a free transfer following his release by Bury.

The 20-year-old came through the youth system at West Brom and was signed by Barker on loan when he was Bury manager last season. The former England under-17 international penned a one-year deal at Gigg Lane in the summer after being released by the Baggies but had his contract terminated after making just one league start this season.

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