ORAN Kearney has issued Leon Knight with an ultimatum regarding his Coleraine future.
Doubts have been hanging over the striker’s long-term future at The Showgrounds following his decision to move back to London in October.
Since then the club has been paying his travel back and forth. But after he missed the Boxing Day clash with Ballymena United Kearney has said enough is enough.
“I think we’ve come to a point where Leon has to be treated like every other player,” said Kearney.
“If he wants to continue to play for us, it’s up to him to make the decision to come back over here to live, or he will have to pay for flights and make his own arrangements to travel over.
“When we agreed the two-year contract with Leon in the summer, there was no clause about us paying for flights.
“The agreement was that he would find a place to live over here and that’s how it was for the first couple of months.
“Obviously in October, things changed and Leon wanted to move back to London again.
“We tried to use money from our budget freed up by the departures of Parkhouse, Spratt and others, combined with the generosity of some of our board members, to bring him over for games.
“The way the flights work, more often than not it required an overnight stay and if we were playing on a Saturday and Tuesday, there would be further stays required.
“All-in-all, that results in us having to pay £1,000-£1,500 per month that wasn’t budgeted for in the summer.
“I’m well aware we have a tight budget, this money was never part of our deal and to me it’s not something we can afford to stand over for another year and a half. It was never going to be a long-term fix.
“I’ve spoken to Leon at great depth about the situation and there is no easy solution to it.
“The board has back me all the way in this and helped raise the funds needed to bring Leon in for matches.
“But I know that the situation can’t go on like this. The club works hard for its money and I’d never want to take it down the road it went before by spending money it hasn’t got.”
Times Sport understands several English clubs are interested in the striker and there are also strong rumours linking Glentoran with another mover for the former Chelsea man.
And Kearney revealed that a transfer out of the club for Knight is very possible during the January transfer window, provided it is the right deal for Coleraine.
“Leon is an asset to us and is under contract so if clubs want him then they will have to negotiate a deal with us,” he said.
“Whether that be a fee or a player plus cash deal it’s a case of wait and see.
“The transfer window has just opened but I’d expect interested clubs to make contact soon.
“The situation needs to be resolved one way or another.”
Kearney has already moved to strengthen his striking options with the capture of Aaron Boyd from Ballymena United.
The Bannsiders boss revealed he had been chasing Boyd since the end of last season and is delighted to finally get his man.
“Aaron’s someone from my time at Linfield that I’ve always kept a tight eye on. Every week he was just banging goals in for fun,” said Kearney.
“He fit’s the bill for what we are looking for here and the direction we are heading in.
“We just missed out on him in the summer when he came back from Canada, but we’ve kept an eye on him and contacted Ballymena at the start of December asking permission to speak to him.
“We would have been prepared to wait on him until the summer so it is a bonus to get him now.
“He is hungry and has the mentality of wanting to prove a point. He’s had a difficult time over the last wee while at Ballymena, but I think he just needs someone put to the arm round him and give him a bit of confidence.
“There was quite a bit of interest in him, Cliftonville were one of the clubs who spoke to him, so it shows how highly he is rated.”