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Steve Foster is likely to leave Witton Albion as manager Brian Pritchard works to keep within wage budget
STEVE Foster has likely played his last match for Witton Albion after the club said on Saturday it can no longer afford to pay him.
The former Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division player of the year was left out of the squad for yesterday’s game against King’s Lynn.
He has not been released, but has been told he is free to join another club.
“We’ve been here before,” said manager Brian Pritchard, referring to the exit of popular forward Ashley Stott almost a year ago.
However that sentiment could also apply to Foster, who left Wincham Park in March 2010 at the end of his first spell with Witton after the club’s wages budget was cut.
That is not the case this time, but rather the weekly bill now is higher than is sustainable.
Pritchard said: “This is easily the hardest decision I’ve had to make since Ashley [Stott] left, more difficult than the situation surrounding Shaun Tuck.
“Steve Foster is a man I like both as a player and a person; he loves this club as much as the next person.
“But I’ve told him that I can’t guarantee he will play the number of games that he wants to. It’s unfair to him, and not prudent of us from a financial point of view, for him to be sat on the bench.
“I have a finite amount of money available, and have to do what is right for the club. The choice I’ve made as manager is one I have to, as I know what is on the horizon if I don’t.”
Foster scored 16 goals last season, signing again for Witton following a successful loan stay. He had started the season at Chorley.
The now 31-year-old formed a productive partnership with leading marksman Shaun Tuck, who capped his return to the field yesterday with a late goal that saw off the newly-promoted Linnets.
But Foster, who helped AFC Telford United and Fleetwood Town win promotion to the Football Conference’s second tier before winning the Northern Premier League’s Golden Boot in 2012, has started only one competitive game so far this term.
Pritchard said: “The timing of Steve’s holiday hasn’t helped, as he arrived home the day before the first game of the season [at Buxton].
“I’ve told him I don’t think he’s fit enough, although he’ll counter that he can’t change that if he’s not playing.
“He’s a winner – look at his playing record – and I know there’s a risk this decision could end up haunting me. I’ve said the same when other players have left. That’s the risk you take as a manager.
“What I would say is that this highlights the importance of our own supporters coming through the gate to help us keep together the group we have. I can’t emphasise that enough.”
Foster watched from the stands as Witton, thanks to Tuck’s decisive goal, edged King’s Lynn to record a second successive victory in the Premier Division.