WITTON Albion are close to agreeing a new contract with Rob Hopley, a player that manager Carl Macauley has described as the best he's signed.

The striker is expected to sign the paperwork for a new deal later this month.

"We're happy and so is he," said the Albion boss.

"It was an easy conversation to have once he told us that he feels good physically and wants to carry on.

"That's what I wanted to hear, and obviously he's a player we count on."

Hopley scored 21 goals for Witton on their return to the Northern Premier League's top-flight this season, and has 68 to his name since moving to Wincham Park in November 2015.

He also featured in all but one of their Premier Division fixtures, a boost for Macauley who had envisaged managing the front man's minutes to avoid a repeat of niggling injuries that almost prompted him to retire last summer.

"He's definitely featured more often than I thought he would," said the Witton manager.

"But he's felt strong and has told us he's enjoying his football.

"Rob loves playing for Witton; it's a club that's close to home, and he's grown fond of the place."

That feeling is reciprocated by Albion's supporters, who chose him as their player of the year.

Hopley's teammates also voted for him, along with midfielder James Foley, as the team's outstanding performer on the way to a seventh-place finish.

The former Winsford United striker, on the field against his old club when Witton claimed the Mid-Cheshire District FA Senior Cup last Thursday, has been captain following Anthony Brown's departure to City of Liverpool in March.

Macauley said: "Rob gets the respect that he deserves from those around him.

"Talk to our lads, and they'll tell you how much they like being in the same team.

"The example he sets is immaculate; he never misses a training session, and he's humble - always willing to take on board advice on how he can still improve.

"For me, having his experience around the place is so important."

He told the Guardian that Witton's leader is not just simply that, and Albion's rivals fear his presence in attack.

Macauley added: "He's a threat to every side we come against and their challenge is always to try and stop him, whether that's from set-pieces or when we play off him."