CARL Macauley has made signing a full-back one of his priorities because former captain Anthony Gardner is unlikely to return.

Witton Albion’s manager told the Guardian he wanted to extend the 28-year-old's stay with the club for a ninth season but hasn’t had a response to messages inviting the club’s longest-serving player to a meeting.

“I can’t wait forever,” said Macauley.

“I’ve not heard a thing from him, and so that’s a position for which we’ve been looking at alternatives.”

Gardner, who has made 385 appearances for Witton since arriving from Cammell Laird in January 2011, began last term as a substitute after James Yates was rewarded for an impressive trial.

However he won back his place in September and went onto make 37 starts in all competitions – scoring twice.

One of those, coincidentally, was the final goal of last season during a 1-1 draw at home to Hednesford Town.

When approached by the Guardian for comment, he replied that he was enjoying a break from football and hadn’t made any plans for next season.

He has been a figure that Macauley has relied on, and famously scored the decisive goal when Albion edged out Spalding United in a promotion play-off final at Wincham Park in April 2017.

The Witton boss has reinforcements in defence to make following the confirmed departures this summer of goalkeeper Greg Hall, full-back Matty Devine and centre-back Nick Ryan.