CARL Macauley is optimistic about Witton’s future, and insists his transfer targets this summer can make his promoted team stronger.

Albion were promoted back to the Northern Premier League’s top-flight, after two years away, when they defeated Spalding United in a play-offs final in April.

However they have since lost influential midfield pair Tom Owens and Brad Bauress.

The former has moved to Australia, while the latter’s switch to National League side Barrow was announced on Sunday.

Macauley has told that he Guardian he expected to be busy anyway to improve a squad he feels must be able to bridge a gap between Division One South and the Premier Division.

“I believe there is a leap to make,” he added.

“We’ve borne that in mind when we’ve started to think about who we want to bring in.

“That will build on what we already have, because from the initial conversations I’ve had I expect almost everybody to be back with us for pre-season.

“These lads have done really well to get us into this position, and it’s only right they have a chance to prove themselves at the next level.

“They worked so hard last season, and have earned the right to play for Witton Albion in the Premier Division.”

Macauley, who has persuaded Rob Hopley to play on for at least one more season after the front man had initially considered retiring, expects to have a less fraught summer.

In 2016, he wondered whether he would have enough players for a first friendly after struggling to tempt players to a club that had been switched to Division One South.

He said: “It’s been very different already!

“I’ve spoken to plenty of lads, and it’s no surprise they’re more prepared to listen now we’ve been promoted – that’s a huge advantage for us.

“We’re well-placed to attract the players we want.

“It’s not a part of the job I enjoy, mind; negotiating I don’t mind, but there’s a relentless about this time of year.

“You feel like you’re on duty 24 hours a day, and that’s a test when you’re working full-time as well.

“Lads are going away on holiday with their friends or their families, and they’re talking to other clubs at the same time as you.

“I’m lucky to have Gary [Martindale] to share the load, because I couldn’t do it on my own.”

Witton’s players report back for pre-season at the start of July.

On Friday, the club announced that Runcorn Linnets will provide the opposition in a first friendly a fortnight later.