Double winners join neighbours
Josh Pope and Stephen Spriggs played key roles in Mildenhall Town’s historic double-winning exploits of 2016/17, but both will start the upcoming season at new clubs.
Twenty-eight-year-old Pope — a goalkeeper with more than 500 appearances for Mildenhall at various levels — conceded just 29 league goals in 40 appearances last term, while 24 goals in all competitions saw Spriggs top the team’s scoring charts.
However, neither will line up for The Hall when they play their first ever Step Four match at Heybridge Swifts on August 12.
A work-enforced relocation forced Pope to quit the club in May and although he returned for a pre-season friendly against St Neots earlier this month, he joined fellow Bostik League Division One North outfit Soham Town Rangers at the weekend.
Meanwhile, after having his exit confirmed last week, the attack-minded Spriggs has agreed terms with Newmarket Town — the side he scored the winner against during May’s Thurlow Nunn League Challenge Cup final.
Speaking about the double exit, Mildenhall boss Dean Greygoose said: “We offered Spriggsy a good deal but we could not reach an agreement.
“There is no animosity, he just wanted to move on and that is fine. It is just one of those things.
“He got us promotion last year. He came in and got the goals and set up the chances we knew he would, but we have to move on.
“It was such a hard decision with Popey — my hardest since I went into management and it gave me a couple of sleepless nights.
“But, I do things a certain way and he cannot commit to training with his work.
“There are reasons why we have won silverware over the last couple of years and one of those is we have been fitter and sharper than a lot of other teams, which comes from training.
“I am gutted, because he was the best goalkeeper in the league, but I cannot treat one player differently to the others.”
Soham, however, have decided that Pope is the right man to replace Niall Conroy between the posts.
The goalkeeper’s London base is far from ideal, but player-manager Robbie Mason has decided that Pope’s ability outweighs any potential mid-week unavailability.
“Depending on where the game is, it may be difficult for Josh to make certain Tuesday evening games,” said Mason, who has also signed midfielder Lewis Clayton from Histon.
“I did have to think long and hard bout it, but Josh is a very good goalkeeper and we did not want to lose the option of having him.
“He will provide a lot of experience and ultimately, it is a risk worth taking.
“We are working on a back-up for any matches Josh misses.”
As for Spriggs, Newmarket’s assistant manager Wayne Goddard is hoping he can provide some crucial know-how in the club’s Thurlow Nunn League promotion bid.
The Jockeys did not lack goals last season, scoring a division-high 122.
But while Spriggs will add even more firepower, it is his winning mentality that most excites Goddard.
“With the players we have, we are always liable to score goals,” said Goddard.
“Steve will obviously boost that, but he is also an intelligent player.
“We have a relatively young squad and his experience could end up being key at crucial stages.
“He knows how to win games of football and trophies.
“We have good players in wide areas, but Steve will give us that little something extra.”