Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Josh Hawkes is set to become a free agent when his contract expires this week and, speaking to The Hartlepool Mail, manager Dave Challinor has explained why the Sunderland and Sheffield United target has not signed fresh terms.

If reports are to be believed, a young midfielder who spent some time in Middlesbrough’s academy before making his senior breakthrough a few miles down the road at Hartlepool United could soon be heading back to the Riverside.

TEAMtalk reported recently that Boro are battling north east neighbours Sunderland to secure Hawkes’ signature.

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Premier League pair Sheffield United and Burnley are also interested, along with Hull, Huddersfield Town and even Portuguese high-flyers Braga.

So its fair to say Hawkes, who has turned down the chance to extend a contract which expires on July 1, will have his pick of the clubs when the transfer window opens.

“Josh Hawkes will leave the club,” Challinor says.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

“Hawkesy has been told there are other avenues for him to explore. If he moves elsewhere then there will be compensation involved and we will get a fee.”

Challinor does not make clear how much compensation the likes of Sunderland, Sheffield United or Boro will have to pay, though one of the biggest talents in non-league football will not require a bank-breaking fee.

A goalscoring midfielder who found the net 11 times over the last two seasons, the chance to hone his talents under the legendary Neil Warnock at Boro may be too good to turn down with a whole host of promising youngsters honing their talents at the Championship strugglers.

Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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