“HE’S happy to stay here.”

Carl Macauley was referring to Owen Dale, a teenager from Crewe Alexandra, after reaching an agreement to extend the winger’s temporary stopover at Witton Albion.

It isn’t the first time a professional club has allowed one of their promising talents to spend more time at Wincham Park since the 47-year-old was appointed as manager.

It isn’t unusual for non-league clubs to shop in the loan market, but Macauley doesn’t rely on it.

However Albion fans would be hard pushed to say when his borrowing from a rival hasn’t worked out.

“We won’t take somebody just because they’ve been offered to us,” said Macauley.

“There’s some risk, like with every transfer.

“Some lads want to use a loan just to get fit, and they can’t wait to go back [to their parent club].

“That sort of player is no good to me, or Witton.

“We want somebody who is hungry, and keen to be part of what we’re trying to do.”

Before agreeing to any deal, Macauley and Gary Martindale – his number two – invite a prospective signing to their office.

Players may not always have realised in the past, but the conversation that follows inside is part of an audition.

Macauley said: “Those chats help us to make up our mind.”

Northwich Guardian:

Owen Dale has impressed for Witton Albion since arriving at Wincham Park on loan from League Two Crewe Alexandra at the start of November. Picture: Keith Clayton

Dale’s arrival was timely, and he has started a dozen Northern Premier League games since making his debut at Stourbridge early in November.

He has scored four goals too.

Both of those numbers would likely be higher had it not been for a groin injury, and also the postponement of a handful of matches since the turn of the year.

“We write to Crewe to tell them how he’s done,” said Macauley.

“For me, it’s a serious responsibility to play a part in a youngster’s development and being trusted to help him improve.

“I want Witton to develop a reputation for doing it properly too.”

His record continues to improve.

Earlier this term, midfielder Ben Hedley played 19 times while on loan from Morecambe.

Last season Tolani Omotola contributed 13 goals to a tally that helped Witton to finish as runners-up to Shaw Lane before they were promoted through the play-offs.

And Steven Tames’ initial impact was while he was still under contract at Stalybridge.

It is difficult now to imagine an Albion team-sheet without his name on it.

Macauley's loan army:

WITTON would be able to field a handy side of players they have borrowed during Carl Macauley’s time in charge.

Sports writer Andrew Simpson suggests how they might line up:

Northwich Guardian:

Andrew Firth (Goalkeeper)

Made 15 appearances during a spell on loan from Premier League club Liverpool, where Macauley has previously worked as a coach in the junior set-up, during the early part of the manager’s reign in 2015.

Sam Hughes (Right-back)

Was an unknown teenager when he played a handful of games on loan from Chester during period of huge upheaval shortly after Macauley’s appointment in 2015. Now on the books of Premier League side Leicester.

Toby Mullarkey (Central defender)

Borrowed from Crewe during latter stages of the 2015-2016 season, when he was a regular alongside Michael Wilson at the heart of the backline. Played against them for Nantwich this term.

Ryan Ellison (Central defender)

Former Stockport County junior made an impression during his temporary stay, again during the early stages of Macauley’s tenure. Now playing at Clitheroe along with attacker Alex Newby, another name familiar to Witton fans.

Danny McKenna (Left back)

Wasn’t technically on loan to Witton from Runcorn Linnets, but certainly was borrowed from them at a delicate moment during the run-in last season while Matty Devine was recovering from injury. Now a regular starter.

Joe Newton (Right-midfield)

A tricky winger who weighed in with a couple of goals during a spell on loan from Wrexham late in the 2015-2016 season. Now watching from the side-lines as an analyst for Welsh champions TNS.

Billy Reeves (Central midfield)

Witton rated him so highly that they twice borrowed him from Port Vale, although a second spell last season was cut short by a niggling knee injury. His energy made Albion’s midfield more vibrant.

Ben Hedley (Central midfield)

A first-year professional at Morecambe, he spent the early months of this season at Wincham Park. Found a role in front of a three-man defence when Witton used that formation.

Owen Dale (Left-midfield)

It’s not easy to fill a vacancy created by Bradley Bauress’ departure, and the Crewe Alexandra youngster has a different skill-set. However his eye for goal is reminiscent of last season’s player of the year.

Tolani Omotola (Striker)

The front man’s impact during a loan spell from Tranmere was huge, and he contributed 13 goals to Witton’s league total during a fruitful partnership in attack with Rob Hopley.

Steven Tames (Striker)

Easily the best of Macauley’s loan signings, the versatile attacker made a permanent switch from Stalybridge Celtic last summer. Has now scored 38 goals in Albion’s colours in 92 appearances.