CARL Macauley claims he has worked every night since the end of the season to convince players that Witton Albion can continue to progress despite having less money to spend.

The manager completed negotiations with two new recruits earlier this week, James Murray and James Short from Marine, and has persuaded more than half-a-dozen members of his squad last season to stay.

He is optimistic that number will increase too.

“We’ve been flat out,” he told the Guardian.

“It’s been non-stop because we’ve been playing catch-up given that we only discovered what our budget would be for next season a few days before our final game of this one.

“At that point we hadn’t spoken to anybody, whether that’s lads already here or ones we’d identified as targets.

“My other half has been bending my ear because Gary [Martindale] and I have been on the road pretty much Monday to Friday.

“It turns out having the weekend off isn’t enough!

“But that’s what you have to do; it’s not just a case of a meeting a player once and everything is sorted.

“It often needs two or three conversations because they’ll be talking to other clubs or going away to think about what we’ve offered.”

Macauley, who along with his assistant Gary Martindale only agreed at the end of April to extend his own contract for another year, admitted he is relieved to be on course to keep together a side that finished ninth in the Northern Premier League’s top-flight last season.

After the board told him a weekly wage bill for next term would be smaller, at least to start with, he had to rule out offering anybody a raise.

Some have agreed to take home less to stay.

Witton announced earlier this month that captain Rob Hopley, goalkeeper Greg Hall and front man Will Jones were the first to commit another campaign at Wincham Park.

The club said on Friday that Danny McKenna and James Foley have done the same, while Macauley added the names of midfield duo Cesaire and Tom Owens to that list when he spoke to the Guardian.

Meanwhile Billy Smart and Josh Wardle are considering offers made to them.

The only confirmed departure to date has been Matty Devine, to Premier Division rivals Nantwich Town, but Short will fill the vacancy created at left-back.

Macauley said: “It’s been tough, and as a manager you hope that those lads want to stick together and still buy into what you’re trying to do.

“That’s made even harder when you ask them to take a drop in wages, but a lot have done.

“I think that says something about them and how they feel about their teammates.

“I’ve no doubt that they could earn a lot more money elsewhere, and once again it’s been an eye-opener to discover from guys that we’ve spoken to just what is being put on the table for them by other clubs.

“It doesn’t diminish my belief that we can take another step forward; I’m ambitious, and I wouldn’t carry on if I didn’t think we could improve no matter how challenging the circumstances.

“I can relax a little bit now because of the progress we’ve made, but there is still work to do.

“It’s not a part of the job I enjoy, but if we can get the squad as close as possible to what we want by the start of pre-season I’ll be made up.”