ROB Hopley is all set for a first season’s start with Witton Albion since 2018.

The 36-year-old is fighting fit after completing pre-season and signing a contract for a 2021-22 Witton campaign that starts at Gainsborough Trinity on Saturday.

Hopley, one of the club’s all-time leading goal scorers with 85 in 177 appearances, could be something of a luxury for Carl Macauley, with having the ability to play up front or in the heart of defence – both roles he has featured in during recent friendlies.

He regained fitness on dual registration with lower-level Winsford United in the early part of last season, returning to Witton to play in FA Trophy ties last December before Covid-19 put paid to the rest of the campaign.

That followed a horrific knee injury that required surgery and ruled him out of the 2019-20 season.

Hopley ruptured his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and LCL (lateral collateral ligament), while also tearing his meniscus and MCL (medial collateral ligament) – all in his right knee.

Now all the hard work puts him in line for a first league game in 11 months in Witton colours.

“I’ve been training pre-season and been enjoying it, my knee so far (touch wood) has been fine and I’ve had no reactions,” said Hopley, who has recently managed his daughter’s Winsford Diamonds under 10s girls’ team to a tournament success in Macclesfield.

“I’ve played most of pre-season at centre half which I’ve been really enjoying so far.

“Gainsborough will be a tough game, it’s always a tough place to go and get a result – even more so with it being the first game of the season.

“We will have to be at our best defensively to keep them quiet and make sure we take our chances when they fall to us going forward.”

Josh Wardle returned from injury in Saturday’s 2-1 friendly win against Prescot Cables. James Foley is back in training after a groin problem but Billy Smart has a knee problem and he is waiting to see a specialist.