RETURNING midfielder Russell Penn has admitted he should never have left York City and wants to get the club moving upwards again during the last season at Bootham Crescent.

Having previously helped the club reach the League Two play-offs, Penn moved to Carlisle from the Minstermen, following relegation from the Football League in 2016.

While continuing to live in York, Penn subsequently turned out for the Cumbrians, Wrexham and Gateshead, as his old club suffered a second successive relegation and then could only finish halfway up the table during their first campaign at National League North standard.

Reflecting on the past and looking to the future, the former City skipper, now 32, said: “If I’m honest, I shouldn’t have left a couple of years ago.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the last two seasons and played a lot of football but, if somebody had told me in 2016, that I would be leaving to play for three different clubs, I don’t think I’d have ever gone and this is the right place for me at this moment in time.

“I love the club and all my friends around here are York fans. We got relegated during my two-and-a-half years here, but I also had some good times on and off the pitch and it’s time to put things right.

“Next season is the last at Bootham Crescent and we’ve got to make it one to remember. I know the last three years have been difficult, starting with when we got relegated, but the club cannot get any lower and, when it starts moving up again, this will be a fantastic place to be.”

Penn has never played regionalised football, but insisted he will not under-estimate the sixth tier, while backing himself to make a difference in the division, adding: “Dropping down a level is a big thing for me, because I’m a proud man, but I don’t think I will be going back into the Football League again, so the division is irrelevant really and, if I’m happy at home, I’ll be happy on the pitch.

“I’m not sure what the level is like but, if York finished 11th with the players they’ve got, they obviously really under-achieved or the league was tougher than they thought. It was probably a bit of both, but my mindset will be to respect the league, whilst also having that bit of arrogance of feeling I can do well in it and, whilst I know it will be tough and everybody will say the same, I will want to win the league and get promoted.”

Since leaving North Yorkshire, Penn managed 32 league appearances in 2016/17 for Carlisle, Gateshead and Wrexham.

This season, meanwhile, he enjoyed 41 National League outings with the Heed.

He has not scored in any of those matches, but Penn believes his midfield strengths remain the same, while suggesting his game intelligence is higher than in his first spell as a Minsterman.

“I don’t think I’ve changed as a player,” Penn declared. “I still wear my heart on my sleeve, but I’m perhaps wiser now and feel my footballing brain has improved.

“I know what my positives are and what I can’t do, which has made me a better player.”

Penn was also flattered by the attentions of City chief Martin Gray, who moved quickly to make the 2009 England C Player of the Year his first summer signing.

“The manager has taken a lot of interest in me which, as a footballer, is always nice,” Penn confessed. “I’ve heard a lot about him, having been in the north-east with Gateshead and he did a great job at Darlington.

“I think people can only now judge him here on the new season when he has brought his own players in.”

While Penn has stressed the importance of giving Bootham Crescent a fitting send-off, he is not yet allowing himself to speculate on the possibility of running out during the first campaign at the new Community Stadium, pointing out: “You can have long-term aims but, in football, you’re always looking short-term.

“I’ve signed for York for next season and will just give everything I can to make the team one to be proud of.”