Soham Town Rangers goalkeeper Josh Pope picks his All-Time best XI
Goalkeepers in the non-league game do not come much more experienced than Josh Pope.
After racking up in excess of 500 appearances at various levels for Mildenhall Town, Pope has been with neighbouring Soham Town Rangers since 2017.
Picking his All-Time XI has been a tough challenge for Pope, who said: "This is by far one of the hardest things to put together – and something that would probably change depending on how I wake up each day. I really struggled choosing my central defenders, so much so I’ve cheated and picked three. I’ve gone for 3-5-2 – like I used to favour on Championship Manager!"
GK: Ben Nower
Thought it would be a bit boring to choose myself! I was lucky early on in my career, I learnt loads off first Alec Banthorpe then Ben and Shaun Marshall.
Ben just edges it as I was his understudy for the longest, so I spent the most time training with and learning from him.
An excellent shot stopper, great reflexes and a strong all-around game. Still gets a game for West Wratting, too, I believe!
RCB: Luke Butcher
A fierce competitor, strong in a challenge and great in the air too. Luke’s the type of player you need in any team if you want to be successful.
A leader and a warrior. I played with Butch for many years at Cambridge United Youths then again at Mildenhall.
Also likes a beer afterwards, but that’s another story…many other stories if truth be told!
CB: Dave Werthmann
Another great defender on the ground and in the air. The type of player that always has a positive effect on those around him on the pitch.
I was lucky to play with Dave for many years at Mildenhall, so much so I think we knew what each other was doing and thinking by the end!
A lovely guy in the changing room too.
LCB: Lee Chaffey
Chaffs is another fearless defender, strong as an ox and never afraid to stick himself in the way.
He has been a game changer at Soham from the moment he joined. Another great chap too.
CDM: Mat Mitchell-King
He came in to our Mildenhall side and helped us secure the double with several quality displays.
Another one with a massive influence over others, a calming authority who makes those around him look better players.
RWB: Stephen Spriggs
He’d hate playing wing-back, but I had to fit him in somewhere! A defender’s nightmare, quick and great on the ball.
Could beat you one-on-one or with his delivery. I played with Spriggsy for years, from colts football at Burwell, Cambridge United Youths and then again at Mildenhall.
LWB: Jamie Thurlbourne
Absolute wand of a left foot. Great delivery from set-pieces and scored too many free-kicks to mention.
Dribbled around many a defender in younger days too! Like Spriggsy, I played with Jamie through colts football.
CM: Matt Green
A difference maker to the team at Mildenhall. Brought a much-needed tenacity and steel to the midfield and like Butch, a born winner.
Popped up with the odd mis-hit that flew in as well!
CM: Lewis Clayton
A very intelligent player, does a lot of running and great with the ball at his feet, both driving at players and can pick a pass as well.
Very dependable, you can count his bad games over the last couple of years on one hand.
CF: Sam Mulready
A real poacher, always in the right place and a lethal finisher. Unbelievable record for Soham too, always good for a goal when we need one.
Very strong, able to use his body as well as anyone I’ve played with to hold the ball up and bring others into the game.
CF: Chris Bacon
A tireless worker who chipped in with plenty of goals as well. As a defensive player there is nothing better than seeing forwards with plenty of running in the channels and able to hold the ball up.
Chris was great at both – him and Muzza would work really well together.
Defenders: Andy Eady and Graham Rush from the very early days at Mildenhall – two very different types of player but very good defenders in their own way.
Nathan Clarke and Sean Hefferon from the Simon Charlton era, Rob Ruddy – formed a great partnership with Butch in the double winning season. Also, Lloyd Groves and Jack Mochalski from my time at Soham – both lion-hearted and hate conceding goals, great lads too.
Wide Men: From the early Mildenhall days Matt Clements and Alan North were very good players, very quick and direct.
Luke Parkinson had a terrific year when we won the double. He came in and scored lots of important goals and a big lad for a wide man.
Joe Carden was always a great outlet at Soham, so quick you could never overthrow to him! More recently the Andrews brothers at Soham too – athletic, quick and great on the ball – just a shame they only find the top corner against me in training!
Midfielders: Gareth Simpson and Niall Inman from Mildenhall were very good players; Simmo for his work-rate and teamwork, Inners could pick a pass and find space where others couldn’t.
Jon Kaye at Soham always provides great drive and energy and has provided us with impetus since his return this season.
Ryan Auger is another who has great vision and a superb passing range. He sees things others don’t. Has made many a player look silly in training!
Forwards: Andrew Wood and John Sands had a lethal partnership for a year or two at Mildenhall. Sandsy scored all types of goals and was a raw talent. Woody scored a lot of goals and gave a lot of running too.
From the earlier days Owen Paynter, Neal Docking, Craig Hammond and Andrew Claydon were all very good strikers but not players who I really played with, more admired from the bench!
Dan Brown was a handful during the double year – fit, strong and direct, he never gave defenders a moments peace.
Craig Gillies also deserves a mention, had a very good year at Soham and is doing very well at March at the moment.
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