Mildenhall Town's returning goalkeeper Josh Pope looking for more success with the club
Josh Pope's first stint at Mildenhall Town ended with trophies – and he is hoping that there is more to come after rejoining the club earlier this week.
The goalkeeper, who spent a number of seasons between the posts at Mildenhall, was part of the squad that clinched a league and cup double during the 2016/17 season.
He joined neighbouring Soham Town Rangers that summer and spent the last four years at Julius Martin Lane, but he has now moved back over the Suffolk border and is eyeing up more silverware.
"Firstly, it's important to stress we all hope we can have a full and uninterrupted season where fans can enjoy the games in a safe manner as before the pandemic. It’s been a strange time and I think players and fans alike are ready for ‘normal’ to come back," said Pope.
"We have to be looking towards promotion. When you look at the squad we have it feels like there’s a good mix of youth and experience.
"With plenty of the games being played early this year it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts the league. On the face it, the idea makes complete sense – trying to play as many games as possible whilst the pitches are at their best.
"It will create challenges though and stresses the importance of having a strong squad on players, which I feel we have.
"There’s a few from our league-winning squad – and Chappers (Scott Chaplin, midfielder) has won the league as well. That experience will be key if we are to challenge at the upper end of the league.
"We’ll need to be professional and make sure we get results when we’re not playing well but with the early schedule being so full if we can get on a roll we can definitely put ourselves in the frame.
"Its never easy competing over a full season and being consistent throughout but it we want to get ourselves in a higher league, then that’s what it takes.
"As well as the league it’s always nice to go well in the cups. The FA Cup means you can play teams from leagues above and is obviously great for the fans and the finances!
"The Vase offers a realistic chance of playing at Wembley for players at our level. It’s a very long road but personally not a competition I’ve done too well in so I’d certainly like to see us put a run together."
Despite returning to familiar surroundings, it was still tough decision for the 'keeper to call time on his spell with Soham.
He'd become a key part of Robbie Mason's squad and was made captain, but a sideways switch of leagues as part of the FA's non-league restructure upped the travelling time – and Pope felt he could not commit.
He added: "It was just the way it worked out, call it fate maybe. Obviously with Soham going sideways into a league with a lot more travelling, for family reasons I felt it was time to move on.
"There’s a strong core of players at Mildenhall from my time before so it’s a place I know I’ll immediately feel at home.
"But I loved my time at Soham. I can’t thank Robbie, Erks (Erkan Okay, assistant) and Lloyd (Groves, former player-coach) enough for bringing me in and always having a great bunch of lads.
"It wasn’t always the smoothest of rides results-wise but everyone always dug in and stuck together.
"I learnt loads and improved a lot over my four years at Soham, especially after they made me captain. It gave me a new perspective and I enjoyed the extra responsibility. I was suddenly the one other players were looking to which maybe wasn’t the case before."