Needham Market’s James Shea is Gunning for AFC Sudbury

James Shea turned his back on the relative comfort of Arsenal’s Shenley Training Ground to dive into the highly-competitive atmosphere of the FA Cup and a tasty Suffolk derby.

The 22-year-old will make his debut for Needham Market against AFC Sudbury in the FA Cup Third Qualifying Round, at Bloomfields, tomorrow and has the chance to become an instant hero for the Marketmen.

Shea was released by Arsenal in the summer but has been allowed to continue training with the Gunners as he looks to kick-start his career at a new club.

Despite having experienced life with Arsenal’s first team, being an unused sub in last September’s Champions League clash in Montpellier, the Londoner remains without a club, so jumped at the chance to link up with Mark Morsley’s side.

“I would love to play in the Football League but I need to play games and I don’t mind going down the divisions to come back up,” said the self-proclaimed Gunner, who has signed for just the one game so far, with Bishop’s Stortford number two Sam Cowler set to deputise for first-choice goalkeeper Andrew Plummer (hamstring tear) in the Ryman League Division One North.

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“I spoke to the goalkeeping coach at Bishop’s Stortford and he told me that Needham were looking for a goalkeeper to play in the FA Cup.

“This is a great opportunity for me to get a game in a big game, in front of what will be a decent crowd.”

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Shea’s only Football League experience is four games for Dagenham & Redbridge and the youngster has yet to be picked up elsewhere, despite rubbing shoulders with some of football’s best.

“I’ve not had the opportunity to have a trial which is disappointing, so it’s good to be able to train at Arsenal to keep ticking over,” he said.

“I joined Arsenal aged 10 and was full-time from the age of 16 and have been training with the likes of Wojciech Szezesny and Lukasz Fabianski for the last couple of years. They have become good mates of mine.

“I have learnt a lot from them and in goalkeeping terms I’m still a baby so I have still got plenty of time.

“But it’s hard at the moment as not many clubs seem to need goalkeepers but I am ready to go.”

With Arsenal pressing for silverware on four fronts, it is perhaps something of a surprise that manager Arsene Wenger gave Shea the chance to stay on with the North London club, even after he had informed him he would not be retaining his services.

Shea, who lives two minutes away from The Emirates Stadium, admits to having some reservations about going back but insists life is good at the moment.

“Arsene Wenger has been really nice to me,” said Shea.

“I was not too sure when Tony Roberts (goalkeeping coach) told me to come back for the first day of pre-season, but the manager told me I was welcome to stay for as long as I needed.”

He may no longer be a player at Arsenal but he insists the Gunners will always remain his team and is revelling in their current excellent form.

“It’s going well there and one player (Mesut Ozil) has changed everything,” said Shea.

“I have trained with him a few times and he makes everything look so easy.

“He never breaks sweat and looks like he is playing in the park.”

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