The Berkshire clubs that fired Chorley FC striker to FA Cup stardom

Connor Hall (front row, far left) in the Binfield FC Lions under 12 side. Photo: Artur Periquito.
Connor Hall (front row, far left) in the Binfield FC Lions under 12 side. Photo: Artur Periquito.

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Berkshire clubs played a big role in putting Connor Hall on the way to national stardom when he scored the first of Chorley’s goals as they inflicted a shock 2-0 FA Cup defeat on Championship side Derby County.

He learned his initial skills at Binfield FC’s weekly soccer schools and went on to help their Lions team win two cup competitions before going on to play for Eldon Celtic and Ascot United’s Allied Counties League side.

The 22-year-old striker has been a prolific scorer throughout his career, but none of his goals has ever made such a big impact as the one he netted on Saturday.

His 10th-minute close-range header steered the National League North club – in tier six of the football ladder – on their way to a famous win over Wayne Rooney’s depleted Derby side and put Chorley into the national limelight with Connor in demand for national TV, newspaper and radio interviews.

He said he was “over the moon” and it was an “unbelievable feeling” for himself and for his team-mates.

And Connor, a huge Newcastle United fan, was gobsmacked when he was congratulated in a tweet from Match of the Day pundit and Toon legend Alan Shearer.

Hall’s success is also an excellent endorsement for the coaches at Binfield where it all began for the player.

Club chairman Bob Bacon commented: “Connor’s performances for Chorley are a wonderful testament of what can be achieved by youngsters attending weekly soccer schools like the one we hold at Binfield and hopefully he will inspire a lot of other young players.

“He is a credit to his family in how he conducts himself.”

Born in Slough, he started at Hill Farm Lane at under-6 level whilst also playing for Binfield Church of England School.

Connor went on to score goals as Binfield Lions lifted East Berks Youth League cups at under-12 and under-16 levels, with the boys being coached Leo Valentin and Steve Rushin.

U16 manager Rushin recalls: Connor was very good at scoring goals as he would get into the right places and was a split-second quicker than other players.

“He was also good at link-up play as he worked hard and would never let you down.

“It was a pleasure to have him in the team, he got on well with the other boys and was very much involved in creating a good team spirit.”

Educated at the Licensed Victuallers’ School, Connor also spent time with Reading-based Eldon Celtic – the side Binfield defeated in both cup finals – before joining Ascot United.

There, he played for the Allied Counties team, coached by Ady Milne and Neil Richards, with the squad also including Joe Grant, now with Bracknell Town.

“Connor also made an appearance for me when I was Ascot’s U23 manager and he scored as well,” said Richards.

Ascot United manager Neil Richards. Photo: Neil Graham.
Current Ascot United Director of Football Neil Richards coached Connor Hall at youth level. Photo: Neil Graham.

In late 2015, he moved the professional ranks with Sheffield United, only to be loaned out to Northern Premier League club Sheffield, and that was followed by spells with Mickleover Sports and Woking.

He also attended the FAB Academy based at Bisham Abbey before joining Bolton Wanderers, where he made one League One appearance in the 2017-18 season. He then moved back to National League side Woking and from there he went to Chorley.

His career has reached new heights this season in the FA Cup, scoring in both the opening rounds as the Magpies knocked out League One opposition Wigan Athletic and then Peterborough United to set up a third-round tie with Derby County.

Bolton Wanderers Connor Hall. Photo: Bolton Wanderers Football Club ©
Bolton Wanderers Connor Hall. Photo: Bolton Wanderers Football Club ©

Due to a coronavirus situation, the Championship club were forced to send a team of youngsters to Chorley last Saturday and were on the receiving end of a giant-killing, going down 2-0 after Hall had given his side a boost with his early headed goal.

“I’m over the moon! Through to round four now and that’s three league teams we have beaten. It’s a great run from us,” beamed the player who will be 23 next month.

“We started well and got the early goal, but we had to keep pushing because 1-0 is a dangerous scoreline, but when the second goal went in it was unbelievable.”

Connor’s younger brother, Lewis, is also a very promising player. Another to attend the soccer school at Binfield, the 16-year-old midfielder plays for Chelsea in the Under-18 Premier League and has represented England at under-15 level.

Chorley have been rewarded with a home fourth-round tie against Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers with the game taking place across the weekend of January 22-25. And that will surely see Connor and Co making a live appearance on TV.

“Good luck in the next round and keep up the good work” was the message from Alan Shearer.

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