EASTLEIGH boss Richard Hill says Reece Connolly has got “much to prove to himself, to me and to the other players” as he nears the end of a six-month drugs ban.

The former Aldershot and Farnborough frontrunner, pictured, has returned to training with the Spitfires and is free to start playing football again –wherever that should be – from the start of October.

Hill is not committed to signing him, but he clearly has a lot of time for the Frimley-born 22-year-old and is a big believer that everyone deserves a second chance in life.

Connolly 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 was banned from all football for six months.

Confirming that Connolly had returned to training, Hill said: “Reece has trained very well.

“He’s got much to prove to himself, to me and to the other players, but he’s nice lad, a good lad and everyone deserves a chance.

“It’s too easy to wash your hands of people.”

When Connolly does start playing again – be that for Eastleigh or any other club – Hill says he will need to be “squeaky clean” and “whiter than white.”

“He’s in a position where whatever happened won’t just go away, so he needs to win people around for people to give him that chance,” he said.

“Reece is not a thug, he’s not aggressive, he’s not a bad person.

“He’s a lovely lad who’s a pleasure to work with and he’s a good teammate to everyone else.

“What he got caught for was wrong. The way he got found out was a bit underhand, but it doesn’t take away from the fact he did it – the tests show that.

“I’m sure he’ll be put in a position where people want him to fail, but he needs to help himself now.

“The biggest crime he could commit in my book is to let himself down and I’d be disappointed if, after giving him a chance, he let me down.

“Potentially I’ve had to be careful that, by bringing Reece back into the club, the other players are not deemed guilty by association. That’s something I’ve had to take into account as well.

“People who read this article will have their own views but, before they judge, they need to take a step back into the archive of their own life. They need to think of an instance when they needed a second chance and where they would be now if they hadn’t been given it.

“Reece is popular with the other players, he’s funny and he’s a good lad. He deserves a second chance.”