Anthony Johnson admits Chester needed to ‘sweep the decks clear’ as he and Bernard Morley begin a major overhaul of the first-team squad.

The new management duo have announced their retained list which includes Jordan Archer, Ross Hannah, Kingsley James, Craig Mahon and Matty Waters, who all remain under contract for the next 12 months, while Gary Roberts and Nathan Brown have signed new one-year deals with the club.

Matty Hughes has joined from Chorley on a one-year contract, but James Akintunde, Lucas Dawson, Jordan Gough, Andy Halls, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and Harry White have all been released by the club, while Karl Cunningham and Dom Vose also depart.

Talented teenage defender James Jones has been offered fresh terms but will consider his options having been selected to take part in Jamie Vardy’s V9 Academy.

The cull will come as no surprise to many Blues fans who witnessed 27 defeats in all competition last season, during a dreadful campaign which culminated in relegation from the National League.

“It’s never easy telling any players the news,” explained co-manager Johnson, who is hopeful of securing deals for two more players within 48 hours.

“However, we got relegated last season, they can’t hide from that. There is a losing mentality in that team and it was time to get a big brush and sweep the decks clear, sweep out that mentality.

“We’re going in a different direction and we want players with a winning mentality. We will bring in players who are established winners at this level.

“There’s no need for a root and branch review here, it’s just we needed to wipe the slate clean and start again. There’s some good players who have been released and there’s good players who have already found new clubs. Football moves on.”

Bringing in 25-year-old attacker Hughes is a 'real coup' according to Johnson, who targeted the forward previously when he and Morley were in charge at Salford City. Hughes is a familiar face to Blues fans, having impressed during two loan spells in the 2014/15 season.

“Matty Hughes is a winner and we’re singing off the same hymn sheet with all three we got signed up,” he said.

“Matty has an affinity with the club and we’ve signed a young, hungry player from one of our promotion rivals. We want to sign winners who have been there and done it at this level and we know who we want to achieve what we want to here."

Johnson was elated to get young winger Brown tied down for next season and feels 31-year-old Blacon-born midfielder Roberts could be 'unplayable' if recapturing his best form in National League North.

“Gary was one of the first and most important decisions we wanted to get over the line,” the 35-year-old boss continued.

“He’s a Chester boy and if we can get Gary Roberts playing to his best, he’ll be unplayable at this level.

“Clubs in this league and the league above were sniffing about but we wanted him signed up as hopefully it will help everything else fall into place.

“It was vitally important to get Nathan signed up. We saw what talent he has with that goal he scored against Bromley, it sums up what an incredible type of player he is.”