Young Middlesbrough goalkeeper opens up on Gateshead loan move
Middlesbrough goalkeeper Brad James cuts a relaxed figure as he takes his seat in the reception area at the International Stadium.
The young stopper is currently impressing on loan at Gateshead and he looks at ease in his new surroundings.
But his laid-back persona can not hide a determination to force his way into the first-team picture with Boro over the coming years by continuing his fine form with the Tynesiders.
The National League North side are making strides away from the dark days of last season – when the disastrous ownership of Dr Ranjan Varghese and Joseph Cala brought the club to its knees and to within 72 hours of going out of business.
These are brighter days as the supporter-owned club looks to make an immediate return to non-league football’s top-flight.
James has more than played his part during the first two months of the season and has kept six clean sheets in his first 12 appearances for the club.
He hopes that form can be the springboard to a successful season for Gateshead – and to a challenge for a place in the first-team squad when he returns to Middlesbrough next summer.
“I’ve really enjoyed it so far and we have been on a good run,” he explained.
“The experience of playing senior football is invaluable to any young goalkeeper.
“From playing Under-23s last season, to playing in this league now, where it’s more physical and sides load the box, that’s what I need as a keeper.
“Aynsley Pears had that last season when he was here, and he has gone back and been in the first-team squad.
“I have to think that way – there are no mates in football when it comes to places in the matchday squad.
“He wouldn’t like to hear that, but it is true.
“Me and Aynsley are big mates and he has proven that he is good enough by coming to Gateshead and proving himself.
“It would be good to try and prove myself in that way too.
“The next step is to try and get into the matchday squad when I go back there – that’s wishful thinking at the moment because it’s still early days here, but I am ambitious to go as far as I can.”
James still trains alongside Pears and Boro’s other senior keepers two days a week – as well as spending time with Gateshead.
He keeps a close eye on events at the Riverside as Jonathan Woodgate’s side look to climb the Championship table after an inconsistent start to the season.
The 20-year-old has taken heart from the fact that the Boro boss is willing to give academy products a chance to shine and is hopeful that he can catch the eye of the former England defender.
He said “The gaffer likes to give youth a chance, as you can see from the squads he is turning out, there are a lot of younger lads in there.
“Some of my mates from the academy are now in and around the matchday squad on a regular basis and it just shows that if you are good enough, you are old enough.
“He will give you a chance and it’s about showing the right attitude and the right ability to get in there.
“That has to be my target eventually.”
James will be back in action this weekend as Gateshead look to move within one win of making an appearance in the First Round of the FA Cup for a second consecutive season.
They travel to BetVictor NPL South West Division club Kidsgrove Athletic on Saturday as heavy favourites and go into the tie on the back of a run of four wins in their last five games.
A youthful Heed squad has flourished in recent weeks – although the youngsters have shone during the run, the experience of player-manager and former Newcastle United defender Mike Williamson and Hartlepool United legend Michael Nelson has been crucial.
James paid tribute to the duo and he revealed the part they have played in helping him settle on and off the pitch at the International Stadium.
“They’ve obviously lost a yard of pace now,” joked James.“But the experience and leadership they bring, their communication and the way they read the game are all part of the reason why we are keeping clean sheets.
“They are still playing really well, and they have helped me a lot.
“Having their influence is helping the whole squad and especially for myself.
“They’re a big reason why we are improving and why we are hoping to keep challenging for a play-off place.
“I just want to keep on improving personally and to keep impressing both of my clubs.”