Mildenhall Town's returning striker James Hall confident of a title challenge
James Hall has revealed he rejected interest from higher-level clubs to rejoin Mildenhall Town.
Having scored 24 goals in 26 appearances during the two Covid-impacted campaigns, Hall departed Mildenhall in the summer for neighbouring Newmarket Town.
Ten goals in 16 outings followed – making him the Jockeys’ leading marksman this term – but it was confirmed on October 20 that he was leaving the club.
Offers were subsequently received from teams at Step 3 and 4, but the striker made contact with Mildenhall manager Ricky Cornish regarding a return to Recreation Way – and the pair reached an agreement.
Hall said: “The first spell I was with Mildenhall I really enjoyed my football. I scored 24 goals in 26 games, so for me it was a no-brainer.
“I went to Ricky – he didn’t have to come to me – because I can see what this team can do.
“Step 3 and Step 4 clubs came in for me, but travelling is not for me anymore and there are a lot of lads at Mildenhall that I know well.
“Ultimately, I just want to enjoy my football and I do that with Mildenhall.”
Whereas Hall was one of the first names on the team sheet during his first spell in Mildenhall colours, this time around there is more competition for places in the attacking areas.
Tanner Call and Dan Brown have scored 13 and eight goals respectively, while youngster Ben Nolan has been impressive this term and summer addition Natty Stewart is working his way back to full fitness from injury.
“It’s healthy competition,” said Hall, who came on as a second-half substitute during Mildenhall’s 2-1 win at Lakenheath in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division on Saturday.
“Tanner scored (against Lakenheath) and he’s on 13 or 14 goals. I’m on 10 from Newmarket.
“You either thrive from it, or you take a back seat and accept they’ll play in front of you.
“I’ll keep fighting for a place. I’ve proven I can score goals in this team before and I’m confident I can do it again.
“All the other lads will probably feel the same and we know the manager will look to play different formations at times.
“We’ve got to be big enough to take our chances when they come and also accept that we may not play every week.”
While the 31-year-old is confident there are plenty of goals within the squad, it is at the other end of the pitch where Mildenhall have been particularly impressive this term.
Shaun Avis’ goal at the weekend was the first Cornish’s men had conceded in five league fixtures, while their 13 goals against is the best defensive record in the division.
And it is those statistics that has Hall believing a title challenge could be in the offing.
“My first spell here, maybe we conceded quite a few goals at times,” he said.
“We were sometimes looking to score more than we let in, but you can’t always do that.
“But now we’ve got Popey (Josh Pope) in goal and he’s one of the best ‘keepers in the area, that makes a difference.
“The spine of the team, there’s a lot of characters and a lot of leaders in there. We all get along as well and that’s important as a team.
“Everyone is playing for each other, which you don’t always get in teams, and I think you can see now there is potential for us to really challenge for the league.
“There is a long way to go but we’re looking good at the moment and I want to be a part of it.”
Fourth-placed Mildenhall host leaders Gorleston on Saturday (3pm). The Norfolk side are 12 points better off than Mildenhall, who have three games in hand.