Stuart McCall today dismissed the rumours of a personality clash with Mark Bower.

The long-serving centre half was among the six senior players released by City this week.

Bower’s exit came as no surprise considering he did not start a league game last season and spent three months at Luton on loan. He was also understood to be the club’s highest earner.

But McCall hit back at suggestions that the defender did not feature because the pair had “fallen out”.

The City boss said: “That couldn’t be further from the truth. From our relationship point of view, there has not been one problem and it’s hard to say goodbye to him.

“I’ve sat down with Mark and we spoke regularly on the phone when he was at Luton. He understands the current climate at the football club.

“Cuts have to be made and the wage he was on made it impossible for us to go anywhere near.

“But I respect what he’s done for the club over the years and he’s a terrific professional. I hold him in the highest regard first and foremost as a person as well as a player.”

Bower found himself sidelined as McCall paired Graeme Lee with the quicker Matt Clarke at centre half. His only full game was against Leeds in the JP Trophy.

McCall felt that a Lee and Bower partnership would have lacked mobility, while putting him alongside Clarke would have meant using two left-sided players.

He added: “When Mark played with David (Wetherall), we did defend a little bit deeper because of the lack of pace.

“Like Wethers, Graeme Lee is excellent aerially attacking the ball but he can’t come too high up the pitch. So Clarkey adds that extra pace which is what he’s got over Bowser.”

Bower’s campaign was affected early on by injury and illness. Then City went on a run of eight clean sheets in 11 games before the rot set in.

McCall said: “Mark had not played enough football for half the season so we wanted him to go away and get some regular games.

“TJ Moncur had gone back to Fulham and we’d brought Zesh Rehman in and the books also had to be balanced.

“I’ve still got the responsibility from the club to watch the finances and Luton were giving us half his wages.”

When the Hatters’ relegation was confirmed, Bower returned to Valley Parade and made his 254th and final appearance for City as a sub against Rotherham.

McCall said: “I wish Mark the very best for the future. I’m sure he will get a new club and do well because of the person and dedicated pro that he is.”