CAPTAIN Rob Hopley has a goal in mind for his Witton Albion return, though he knows there is still a long way to go in his recovery from an horrific knee injury.

The 35-year-old striker, the driving beat and soul of Carl Macauley’s side, completely snapped his anterior cruciate ligament in the final pre-season friendly against Kidsgrove Athletic last August.

"I did a right job on it," reflects Hopley, whose career took him to Colwyn Bay and Chester FC before arriving at Wincham Park for the 2015/16 campaign.

"I ruptured my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and LCL (lateral collateral ligament). I also had a tear in my meniscus and MCL (medial collateral ligament) – all in my right knee.

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"I had the operation in the middle of October. At the moment I’m in the gym strengthening all the muscles back up in my leg and started running on the treadmill in the last three weeks.

"It’s a long road back!"

Hopley, a builder from Winsford, added: "I’m hoping to be back training for pre-season.

"Not sure on match play yet but if all goes to plan maybe for the start of next season."

He has found things difficult at times

"It’s been very tough, mentally as well as physically," he said.

"I was on crutches and wearing a knee brace for a long time.

"It’s been tough watching the games this season as I’ve just wanted to be on the pitch with the boys."

He feels Albion are doing themselves proud on the field.

"We’ve done really well," he said.

"The Gaffer & Marty (assistant manager Gary Martindale) make us competitive every season even against teams who have far bigger budgets than us.

"It just goes to show what a great management team we have at Witton.

"The lads have been great as well, even when we have been struggling with injuries and down to the bare bones we somehow pull out some great results like against the leaders South Shields who we’ve beaten twice this season.

"We’re still in the mix for the play-offs so you can’t ask for much more than that."