BATTLING Chris Hood still hopes not to lose star asset Matt Barron – but the Thunder forward told The Journal he will leave Gateshead.
The Welsh international hopeful admits he has all but completed a deal to join York, and expects to sign with the City Knights in the next few days.
He has stopped short of inking the deal though, his situation complicated by the position of his girlfriend, England Women’s goalkeeper Carly Telford.
Telford plies her trade at Leeds but could move on, and Barron is awaiting movement on that front before ratifying any move.
Gateshead youth product Barron sat down with new Thunder head coach Richard Pell on Sunday night, keen to hear the new boss’ ideas.
He admitted that meeting was a courtesy afforded given his long-service though, and that he had long since informed Hood of his decision to leave the North East.
“Whatever happens I won’t be at Gateshead next season,” explained Barron. “It’s a tug to leave of course, because it’s the club that brought me through and I’ve loved my time here.
“I told Chris I would be leaving some time ago, he gave me permission to speak to other clubs, and I’m excited about the potential of working with Dave Woods again.
“We’ve agreed verbally but I haven’t physically signed the deal yet, because there’s still a few things to sort out.
“Richard is a good bloke, a great guy with some excellent ideas on how to take Thunder forward, and when he came in, fair play to him, he got in touch because he didn’t want me to leave.
“So under those situations I agreed to have a meeting, to see what his plans were, but that was out of respect for the club and their position more than anything else.”
Every Thunder player is out of contract at the end of the Championship One season, and with just two away clashes left, Gateshead are already planning hard for next term.
New boss Pell is likely to make many changes to the squad, but Barron is one man the Castleford Tigers Academy coach and rugby director Hood don’t want to lose.
Thunder stalwart Hood is still hopeful of changing the 23-year-old’s mind.
“We know the situation Matt’s in and we’re doing everything we can to offer him something that will keep him at the club,” he said.
“He hasn’t yet signed the deal. We understand he has given the verbal agreement but we really want him to stay with us, and we’re acting accordingly.
“From our position we thought there would be some more talking to do, so we’ll wait and see what happens from here.”
Incoming Thunder head coach Pell is expected to make a raft of changes to the struggling squad, but will want powerful Barron on hand next term.
Skipper Kevin Neighbour will be another he will seek to retain, along with talented hooker Ryan Clarke, sprightly Will Bate and youngsters like Matt Garside and Stephen Welton.