JOHNNY HUNT admits his sudden departure from Chester has come as a major ‘surprise’.
The full-back made 92 appearance across the past two seasons for the Blues, scoring four times, and was widely expected to be among those first-team players retained by boss Jon McCarthy following Saturday’s final day 2-0 loss against Boreham Wood.
However along with five other players – including Elliott Durrell, Blaine Hudson and Kane Richards – Hunt has been released by Chester and the defender admitted he was ‘gutted’ to be leaving having held initial talks over a new deal in January.
“I’m gutted to be honest and it’s come as a surprise,” explained the 26-year-old.
“There was some talks in January but for whatever reason things have changed since then and I’ve not been offered a new contract.
“I’d not spoken to anyone else and in all honesty I would’ve signed a new contract with Chester there and then, but it wasn’t to be.
“It’s a tough one because I’ve been enjoying my football more than ever at Chester. But I’m not soft and I’ve been in the game long enough to know that these things can happen. That’s football and I’ll start looking for a new club, this is the way it goes sometimes.
“I’ve not got a bad word to say about the people there, about the staff, the board, the gaffer.
“I got on well with you guys in the press, with everyone there, and the fans were fantastic."
Hunt has been linked with a move back to former club Wrexham, where he came through the youth programme, and famously netted the decisive penalty to help the Reds lift the 2013 FA Trophy.
Despite being managed by his former team-mate and good friend Dean Keates, Hunt ruled out making the switch back down the A483.
“Keatesy is a mate and I speak to him a lot, but it’s clear to me that he’s got other options in that position,” he continued.
“There were rumours I might be going back to Wrexham but that’s not going to happen. I’ve not spoken to any other clubs and I wasn’t looking to move on from Chester.
“I think some people might have jumped to a conclusion but I was never going back there.”
The Blues alarming slide down the table this season led to McCarthy’s side finishing the campaign in 19th, just two points above the drop zone, having sat seventh in late December following a fine run of form.
Hunt suggested the club need to change their ‘mentality’ if they are to start climbing back up the table but did accept survival was still a decent achievement given the budget constraints McCarthy has been under.
“Chester is a very good club, and it’s a got a lot of potential,” he added.
“At Christmas I can honestly say I was enjoying playing football more than I have ever done in my career. I loved playing in the derby matches and some of the atmospheres we played in were as good as I’ve been involved in.
“We possibly lacked that bit of experience needed once we got ourselves into a strong position in the table before Christmas.
“All I’ve ever tried to do is use my experience to help the team. Maybe that sometimes comes across a bit aggressive, but the club needs to have a bigger mentality in my opinion.
“If the club wants to be full of ‘yes men’ then fine, but you don’t want to become a club who accept the team is going to go on losing runs like we did.
“At Chester, the fans’ expectations are far greater than the club’s expectations. That’s not having a go at the board, but on the budget the club operates on, any fans who think that staying up last season was not a success probably need a re-think.
“It’s a great club and I wish them all the best in the future, and I hope that any new signings will enable the club to get where they want to be.”