FORMER captain Russell Penn has returned to York City and manager Martin Gray is also interested in bringing back another ex-midfielder Paddy McLaughlin back to Bootham Crescent.

Penn and McLaughlin both lined up in midfield for National League Gateshead this season and the former has become Gray’s first summer signing, returning to North Yorkshire following a two-year absence after the club were relegated from the Football League in 2016.

Former Newcastle reserve McLaughlin was a member of the Minstermen’s double-Wembley winning squad of 2012, before leaving for Grimsby a year later.

The 27-year-old Northern Irishman featured in all of Gateshead’s 46 league games during the 2017/18 campaign and, on a possible move for McLaughlin, Gray revealed: “He’s somebody who has been brought up, like many players we have spoken about.

“We would be interested in him, but it’s not something we’ve been able to do as yet.”

Gray has also revealed that he has been given a “competitive budget” by the club board to reinforce City’s ranks this summer, despite previous statements from chairman Jason McGill that the club would need to operate on a break-even basis next term.

“I had a meeting with the board at the end of the season and the budget that has been set is a good, competitive one that gives me the best chance to succeed, which is all I can ask for,” Gray explained.

On the importance of 32-year-old Penn’s return, the City boss added: “It is vital going into the new season that we have people with experience of playing at a higher level and Russ has played more than 500 league games in the divisions above.

“You need that experience to win championships. He’s a great age and has still got the legs to play games, because he played more than 40 in the National League this season.

“He also lives here and sees York as his home. He thinks he has unfinished business with the club and he’s a fantastic start to what we are going to do this summer, because it’s so important the people we bring in understand what York City is all about, and he can manage the expectations and demands of our club.”

Gray would not confirm whether Penn would be handed back the skipper’s armband next season but admitted his presence can only help enhance the side’s on-pitch character.

“Russ has been captain in the past and we need more leadership in the squad,” the former Darlington chief declared. “I think we will have that through the spine now, as Sean (Newton) is captain, Simon Heslop has been captain, Dan Parslow has also been in the past and I think Hamza Bencherif has been before at other clubs.”

Gray is hoping to unveil further new additions in coming days including a new striker, saying: “There will be some more announcements on exciting signings before the end of the week.”

He is also still waiting to hear whether out-of-contract pair Alex Kempster and Louis Almond will sign the new deals they have been offered.