NICK Ryan will start a new campaign with Runcorn Linnets but Carl Macauley has not ruled out the possibility of a return to Witton Albion.

The defender has not played since breaking his right leg in three places during a game in April of last year and is optimistic he can take another step in his recovery this summer by taking part in pre-season training.

"He remains very much in our plans," the Albion boss told the Guardian.

"We spoke to him last week and said we wanted him to return with us.

"Once he is ready, we'd then need to consider how best to get him on the pitch and playing games again.

"Initially, at least, that would probably need to be somewhere else."

However an alternative solution has been found with Linnets and the 25-year-old, who joined Witton from Stalybridge Celtic in July 2017, will instead join them when their players gather begin their preparations for next season on Tuesday.

The Northern Premier League North West Division outfit will register him too, but there is an agreement he can go back to Wincham Park later if he wishes.

"Nick is looking to play again and get back to the level he was at," said Michael Ellison, Runcorn's manager.

"We'll give him a platform to do that

"For my part, if he wanted play again for Witton at any point then we would not stand in his way."

Ryan sustained an injury while challenging an opponent during Witton's 2-2 draw with Marine in a Northern Premier League Premier Division fixture.

He was taken to hospital by an ambulance that was summoned immediately.

His teammates agreed in the dressing room after the final whistle to donate money they had collected over the course of the campaign – earmarked to be spent on a holiday they had planned together – to the popular Liverpool-based defender.

He was ruled out indefinitely, and hasn't played since.

Albion's supporters, conscious Ryan had only recently returned from a two-month spell on the sidelines with a fractured jaw, also made donations to help while he couldn't work.

"It was such a bad injury," said Macauley.

"He's worked so hard, often by himself, on his rehabilitation and it's been a long road.

"But he's stayed close to the group during the whole of last season and the lads appreciated that so much.

"I've seen some of the messages they've sent to him wishing him well for the next part of his comeback."

Coincidentally, Witton are due to visit Runcorn Linnets on Tuesday, August 6 for a friendly.