This week I spoke with goalkeeper James Anderson about his footballing roots and why he decided to choose the most unforgiving position on a football field. WRITES ADAM TONES
The position of a goalkeeper is tough and can be lonely at times, usually, the last man as a striker is bearing down on you. A position that offers little opportunity for redemption.
James had a keen eye for the game as well as a hunger and toughness to follow in the footsteps of the idol Peter Schmeichel.
When asked if the position between the posts has always been one, he enjoyed, he added: “When I was really young, aged five or six I went in goal for one session, and no one could score past me, so I stayed in goal.
“When I was younger, I used to get called Peter Schmeichel because I used to look a lot like him.
“I guess he is my idol, I like the way he played. I was watching a documentary on him, and he said if you press players in your box, and they put it over your head, it’s a good finish but you have more of a chance of making a save.
“I try and put that into my game it’s easier said than done but he used to be mint at it.
“Joe Hart is another one that was really good at it, another player I used to enjoy watching.”
Anderson kick-started his footballing journey at the junior level with Kingston Park. After an eight-year spell with the club, he moved on to join Gosforth for two seasons.
As Anderson’s game improved, he moved to Burradon for 12 months. After several standout performances, Anderson made the step up to the senior level with Ponteland at the age of just 15 years old.
James has also played for Chester-Le-Street United while studying at college before Morpeth took note of his ability and signed the promising goalkeeper.
Anderson, 19 has enjoyed experiences many could only dream of. The goalkeeper played in a VAR trial tournament at St. Georges Park the home of the England national team.
He has also been between the posts at Sheffield Wednesday’s famous stadium Hillsborough. The teenager was triumphant in winning the International Football tournament.
The next stop for Anderson was Birmingham City and St. Andrews Stadium in the final of the England Schools Cup.
The result did not go Anderson’s way, his team lost on penalties in the final. Nevertheless, the experience is one the goalkeeper will never forget.
Anderson spoke of the valuable experiences he’s been part of, adding: “Definitely, it’s the same for Ponteland men’s it takes you out your comfort zone and you eventually get used to that sort of environment.”
It was evident that the boy from Byker was good enough to take his game to the highest level at a young age.
James, who stands 6ft 3in tall, has had a successful season with Whickham. Anderson joined the Lang Jacks on loan in September and has since helped the club climb the league table.
Anderson has kept eight clean sheets in 16 league games so far since the new management team joined the club.
The teenager spoke about the importance of training as well as listening and implementing the advice he receives into his game.
Anderson spoke about Whickham goalkeeping coach Chris Bannon and the importance he’s had since he joined the club. He said: “Just having a goalkeeping coach to do your warm-up helps a lot and gets you prepared for the game straight away.
“After a good warm-up, I find you are always in a better headspace.
“The keeper coach at Morpeth (Dale) knows Chris and told me of Chris’s experience in the Northern League.
“Just having someone like that who has played for many years helps loads. The little tips and little advice all the little bits help.”
Anderson has seen vast improvement within the team with the defence being a key area and one that is looking harder to break down.
James has seen a positive change since the arrival of Tony Fawcett (Whickham manager) and his management team.
He added: “I feel like we have a lot more depth in the team with the players that we have brought in.
“We had a good starting eleven, but we weren’t performing as we could. I feel like he has helped bring out the best of us.
“There is a lot more depth in the squad, we have always got a full bench week in, week out.
“The squad is not just the 16 that go to the game, we’ve got players that don’t get in the squad that are really good players.
“Not just that though the players that he has brought in are not just for the pitch but also the dressing room and the training sessions. It’s a really good environment to be in.”
Speaking about his future ambitions, Anderson is looking to play as high as possible. One which might see a return to Hillsborough and St. George’s Park one day.
“My ambitions are to play as high as I can and make sure I’m still enjoying it.
“I think that’s the main thing if you are not enjoying it, you’re not going to play well.
“I want to push and challenge myself so playing at the highest level is my ambition.
“If I am at Whickham next season we are going to win the league and the Vase.”
A bright future beckons for the boy from Byker. A season in which he has cemented his name as one of the best goalkeepers within the division.
Player Profile – James Anderson
Occupation: Amazon Warehouse Operative
Favourite Club: Newcastle United
Favourite Past Player: Peter Schmeichel
Favourite Current Player: Joelinton
Alison or Ederson: Ederson
All Time 5-a-side Team: Schmeichel, Van Dijk, Ronaldinho, Messi, Maradona.