EASTLEIGH boss Richard Hill would “never say never” to re-signing striker Reece Connolly once he has served his six-month ban for drug-taking during his Farnborough days.
Connolly, 22, signed non-contract forms for the Spitfires in January after being suspended and subsequently sacked by Farnborough for testing positive for cocaine and marijuana last October.
With the backing of the Professional Footballers’ Association, the player questioned whether Farnborough should have carried out their own drug testing rather than referring the matter to the Football Association.
He later tested positive from a hair follicle test carried out by the sport’s governing body and has been banned from all football for six months.
Farnborough have also landed themselves in hot water, fined £5,000 and warned as to their future conduct after being found guilty of breaching FA Doping Control Regulations.
Connolly scored three times in Eastleigh’s run-in to the Skrill Conference South title, including the winner in the 1-0 home win over Chelmsford on March 11.
The Spitfires had been aware he was under FA investigation when they signed him but took the view that he was innocent until proven guilty. Connolly was an Eastleigh player when the FA carried out their own drugs test in late January, but Hill was at pains to stress that the positive result related only to his time at Farnborough, not the Spitfires. Unlike urine, blood or saliva, a hair follicle test can detect drug use going back several months.
Connolly missed the latter stages of Eastleigh’s title push, partly because he was injured and partly to give him time to prepare for his FA hearing on April 2.
He cannot now play again until October 1, but can resume training at the start of September.
Hill who knew Connolly as an Aldershot Town loanee at his old club Didcot in 2011, believes everyone deserves a second chance.
“I’ve kicked Reece’s butt and he’s working for his dad at the moment, digging ditches,” he said.
“When he starts playing again he can be randomly tested by the FA at any time.
“Will I re-sign him? Never say never.
“We’ve all done something wrong, to some degree, in our younger years and we all deserve a second chance.”
Farnborough have hit out at their “staggering” £5,000 fine, stating: “The FA would be better served using its resources to increase the effectiveness of its random testing and applying the toughest penalties available in all drug-related cases rather than punishing those who act genuinely in the fight against drugs.”