A closer look at our under 18's 'keeper
Having recently joined Northampton Sileby Rangers on a work experience loan, under 18’s goalkeeper James Goff knows the importance of playing men’s football at an early age as he looks to give himself a chance of earning a professional contract with the Cobblers.
The 17-year-old featured for first-team manager Rob Page during the summer in pre-season and there are high hopes for the youngster, who trains on a daily basis with first-team ‘keepers David Cornell and Adam Smith under the guidance of former Premier League stopper and Cobblers coach Paddy Kenny.
Goff has made an instant impact at his temporary club, with him claiming two Man of the Match awards and saving a penalty on his debut and he’s looking to build on an impressive start at Fernie Fields.
‘’I’m there until the end of the season and at the moment it’s going really well,” he said.
‘’I’ve played 4 games and although the results haven’t particularly gone our way I’ve been happy with my performances. Men’s football is a lot more physical and it’s a lot different to playing youth football. It’s a lot more demanding and you need to be brave.”
Former Sheffield United, Leeds United and Queens Park Rangers ‘keeper Paddy Kenny joined the Cobblers in the summer and he’s already had a big influence on Goff, who says working alongside professionals like him is only going to be beneficial to his development.
‘’I feel I’ve matured massively and it’s helped a huge amount having an ex-Premier League goalkeeper here,” said James.
“Also working with two top pro’s (Smith and Cornell) has been quality and I feel my game and maturity has definitely improved since I’ve been training with them.”
Goff also looks up to current England number 1 and Torino goalkeeper Joe Hart as one of his inspirations. The youngster draws similarities between himself and 29-year-old Hart as he was in a similar position when starting out as a youth player at Shrewsbury.
However, it could have been a completely different up-bringing for the 17-year-old, as he started his junior career as a striker.
‘’I began playing football as a forward for my local team. I remember we went on tour and for some reason our ‘keeper couldn’t play. My dad was the manager at the time and asked me to go in goal. I ended up winning player of the tournament and was recommended to Rushden & Diamonds and had a trial there.
‘’Rushden signed me after a three-week trial and it’s all gone from there. After two years at Rushden, former Coventry ‘keeper Andy Marshall recommended me to them but I wasn’t offered a deal for not being agile enough. I then trained with Kettering and Peterborough but then after a trial with Northampton I signed here as a 13-year-old and haven’t I looked back since.’’
Northampton Town’s Professional Development Phase coach Mark Lyons has been impressed with Goff’s development over recent years and says he has the correct tools to make his way in the game.
‘’He’s got a big presence about him in the box and he’s a good shot-stopper,” he said.
“He talks about the game well and having that calm presence on the pitch is massively important and it settles the lads down. He’s the leader of the team in a communication sense and playing men’s football will only help him improve that.
‘’He’s been doing really well at Sileby, we’ve had really good reports back so far. It’s important for young goalkeeper’s to be playing men’s football as they’re forced to be one of the leaders of the team. Working with Paddy on a daily basis and playing on matchday’s for Sileby is really kicking him on and he’s buzzing at the moment.’’