BRIAN Pritchard’s mantra all summer has been: ‘Witton will rise again’.

After avoiding relegation from the Premier Division last season, he has told potential new recruits a promotion push is his objective this time around.

They believe him too, according to Sam Barnes.

“The gaffer has been spot on from the moment I first spoke to him,” said the 22-year-old, who finished last term at league rivals Marine.

“He made clear his aim is to challenge at the top of the table. If it wasn’t, then I wouldn’t have signed.

“I’m made up now I am here because I’ve always been impressed when I’ve come with a visiting team – the facilities and the playing surface are great.

“Now the lads, as well as the manager, want to improve on last year. I know it was a difficult one for Witton on and off the pitch.”

Barnes, a central defender, told the Guardian he also wants to forget a testing time.

After helping Hednesford Town to promotion via the play-offs the season before last, when the Pitmen beat Albion’s conquerors FC United of Manchester in the final, he hasn’t played as regularly as he’d like.

The former Stockport County junior left Keys Park after a single substitute appearance in the Conference North, returning for a second spell with Marine.

However his campaign was disrupted by an injury.

His performances in pre-season for Witton have impressed Pritchard though, who confirmed this week that Barnes will be captain.

“It’s great to have the responsibility of having the armband in a team hoping to go up,” added the Liverpool-based stopper.

“It’s boosted my confidence, particularly as I was disillusioned a bit with football last season while I was trying to get myself fit again.

“I feel settled here already – it’s a good bunch of lads travelling from outside of the area to be a part of the club because they want to be successful.”

Barnes is one of seven signings made by Pritchard since the end of last season.

Most of those are likely to feature against Ilkeston in the campaign’s opener today, Saturday.

He said: “We’ve beaten some good sides in pre-season, so the spirit is strong in the group.

 “The result at Conwy [last weekend] was exactly what we needed, but we’re desperate to get started now.”

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