ACCRINGTON Stanley have offered top scorers Michael Symes and Bobby Grant new contracts as they bid to fend off interest from rival clubs during the January transfer window.

Stanley, who have also now secured permission to bring striker Billy Kee back to the club on loan from Leicester, are keen to hold on to their best players as they bid to challenge for a League Two play-off place.

But the first distraction of what could yet be a testing month came at the weekend as striker Symes was linked with a move to Championship club Derby County.

Derby had already been rumoured to be interested in Grant but Stanley assistant boss Jimmy Bell says there has been no contact about either player.

Both are out of contract at the end of June, having only signed one-year contracts last summer before either had shown the form now making them prized assets.

That means 26-year-old Symes could leave for nothing in the summer, although the terms of the Bosman ruling mean 19-year-old Grant would command a small tribunal fee because he is under the age of 24.

Stanley will be keen not to lose both players in such fashion and their desire to keep both means they have approached the duo with new contract offers.

Asked about the reports linking Symes to Derby, Bell said: “We’ve had no contact with Derby so I don’t know anything about it. It’s just rumours at the moment.

“But I do think there is interest out there in him because you do hear rumours.

“We’ve been aware of this situation though and we’ve offered him a new contract, which he’s thinking about at the moment.

“It’s only tentative at the moment so we don’t know what length of contract it would be, but we want to show him that he’s in our long-term plans.

“It’s the same situation with Bobby Grant.”

When rumours of growing interest in Grant surfaced two months ago, Bell suggested the 12-goal teenager was now worth at least the £200,000 Ipswich paid for fellow rising star Gary Roberts midway through the 2005/06 season.

And the Reds assistant believes Symes, who now has 13 goals this season and has been nominated for the PFA fans’ League Two player of the month award, could command a similarly high fee.

“I think he would cost that, if not more,” said Bell, who has been assured by new multi-millionaire chairman Ilyas Khan that the club are now financially stable and under no pressure to sell players.

“Michael would command a lot of money and he would be virtually impossible to replace at this stage of the season because it would cost a lot of money and high wages.

“We have scored a lot of goals this season and a lot of that is down to Michael and Bobby alone.”

The form of Symes and Grant has limited Kee’s starts this season but Stanley are hoping to finalise the striker’s return on loan from Leicester today.

The Reds have also secured the services of Gary King and Peter Murphy for the rest of the season after both were given only six-month contracts in the summer.