Proud parents Sandra and Rob Eccles talk about their son James’ extraordinary football career with absolute pride in his achievements.
> What did James do while he was in the UK?
He trained at six professional football academies and got first hand training from the goal keepers of the reserve teams of the premier league.
James says it was very exciting; it was a very good experience for him to see first hand what the professionals players are like and where they train.
He also got to watch some of the Premier League games that were on at the time and went on guided stadium tours of the Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool home grounds, where they show you the playing pitch, club’s museums, trophy rooms, change rooms and the press rooms where he learnt about the history and traditions of the clubs
> Did James train with or meet any famous people?
He got to meet the Australian Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, and the Manchester United second goalkeeper and England’s number one goal keeper, Ben Foster.
He trained with England’s goal keeper coach, Eric Steele and Manchester United’s first team coach.
Manchester City club asked James back for a second training session with their under 18s team, who are all national team players from all over the world.
> What was the ‘non-football’ highlight of James trip?
He says it has to be visiting the biggest shopping centre in Europe.
> What did James gain out of his trip to the UK?
It showed how the professionals train, the facilities they train at and what it takes to become the best in the world.
> Describe James’ football career over the last twelve months.
December 2008: James was given a contract for the NSWIS (New South Wales Institute of Sport) for soccer. This was given to two boys born 1992 to 1994. James was born in 1994.
January 2009: James trained for two weeks with the Newcastle Jets.
January 2009: James played in the Institute Challenge in Canberra (a tournament between all the different state’s Institutes of Sports in Australia). This was for boys born in 1993 and 1994, so James was one of the youngest in the tournament. Three quarters of his squad were born in 1994, so they had a tough time against the other older teams. James was put under enormous pressure and coped well, which led to him being called up to play for Qantas Joeys at Easter.
February to September 2009: James NSWIS contract included an offer to train every week in Newcastle and play U23s in Newcastle. This did not include accommodation or boarding, so the head coach Gary Phillips said that provided he played the highest level possible in the Northern NSW zone, he needed only to attend the institute during his school holidays.
Implementing that offer, James became the No.1 goalkeeper for the Demon Knights Football Club in the Northern Inland Premier League. James played 12 of 18 matches of the Premier League season for DK, including the semi-final and preliminary final. He conceded 11 of the club’s 32 goals conceded. The DK first grade came third in the competition.
James also played in the outfield for the DK reserve grade as a striker. In 2008 James got the club’s senior player golden boots for the season. He scored a goal every second game this season until we pulled him out of playing reserve grade, as he became a target for ‘cheap hits’ in the open field as he was becoming widely known for his goalkeeping success.
March 2009: As a curtain raiser for the Northern Inland Premier League, a ‘Best of the Best’ fund- raising game was held between two teams made up of the 30 best players in New England. James was only 14 and was 3 years younger than any other player invited to take part. Despite the age difference, James received player of the match, in which he played goal keeper.
April 2009: James was selected and played as the goal keeper for the Duval High School U/15s boy’s soccer team that was to play in the Bill Turner Cup.
April 2009: James represented the combined New England High Schools at the North West touch football trials, after making it through the first stage of selections.
April 2009: James was selected for the National Qantas Joeys U/16s team. He was still only 14. He attended an 8 day camp for the National Squad in Canberra over Easter.
April to Present: James relocated his schooling to Toowoomba, where he was offered schooling and the weekly goal keeper coaching by one of the Queensland Roar (now Brisbane Roar) coaches.
July and August 2009: James played as the goal keeper for Demon Knights No.1 team in the Northern Inland Cup for all 4 rounds of the competition. He played in the final until he was subbed off injured just before full time. DK were runners up after losing in a penalty shootout after still being tied after extra time.
August 2009: James represented the Queensland South West region in the Queensland School Boys’ State Championships in Brisbane.
September 2009: James played as the goal keeper in the U/17s at the Gold Champions Cup at the Gold Coast. His team was an invitational team featuring mostly 15 and 16 year old boys whom James had toured Germany with in 2008. This featured teams from all over Australia and overseas such as New Zealand, Korea and the USA. This was held over 8 days.
October 2009: James played in the Football Federation Australia (FFA) national titles representing the Northern New South Wales Football state in the U/15s, as he did the year before in the U/14s.
There are 12 ‘states’ in the FFA: Northern NSW, Metropolitan NSW, Country NSW, Metropolitan Victoria, Regional Victoria, Metropolitan Queensland, Regional Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, ACT and Northern Territory.
Repeating his Golden Gloves performance of last year, he again was the Golden Gloves of the tournament, but this time shared his award with the other Northern NSW goal keeper. The two of them had not conceded a goal in the first 6 games of the tournament.
It was only after more than 7½ hours of play that they conceded a goal. James’ Northern NSW state team were the tournament’s runners up. They had won six out of the seven games the team played in the tournament.
October 2009: James was offered a renewal of his contract with the NSW Institute of Sport.
21st October 2009: James was taken to a training session of the Brisbane Roar by John Garside, one of the two Brisbane Roar’s goalkeeper coaches. He was coached by Fernando vas Alves, the 1st grade goalkeeper coach. He trained all day beside the Roar’s goalkeepers Liam Reddy and Griffin McMaster, and National U/18s goalkeeper, Matt Acton and with the main Roar players such as Craig Moore and Reinaldo.
He has now been asked to train one day a week with the Brisbane Roar and will be offered a contract with them in May 2010 to play in their National Youth League team
November 2009: James now trains one day a week with the Brisbane Roar until he goes to England. He will do this again after Christmas until May 2010.
8th November 2009: James was selected to play for South West Queensland’s U/20s Futsal Squad as their goal keeper. At 15 years old, he is their youngest player. They will play representative Futsal against the other regions of QLD.
27th November 2009: James travelled to England and trialled with 6 of the English Premier League Clubs until mid December. These clubs were Chelsea, Arsenal, Fulham, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United. The Manchester United head goal keeper coach, Eric Steel who is also England’s national goal keeper coach, had been asked by John Garside of the Brisbane Roar to spend extra time with James.
January 2010: As Fernandez vas Alves is also the goal keeper coach for QAS (Queensland Academy of Sport) James will be representing them in the Institute Challenge in Canberra in January 2010. It is for boys born in 1994 and 1995. He played for NNSWIS last January.
> Does James play other sports?
Yes. At Duval High School and in Toowoomba James is ranked as one of the best tennis players in the schools but did not play any representative tennis (had no time!). He did play in the Monday nights’ open men’s tennis competition in Armidale in the late summer-autumn.
James is also a good sprinter, ranked in the top three at Toowomba and at a similar level at Duval. James was also selected in the Duval High School’s rugby team, but we decided that this risked injury for his goal keeping so he did not play any matches after April 2009.
> And what is James’ dream football career?
To go as far as he can and hopefully one day to play for the Socceroos and in the EPL (English Premier League).
> All the best, everyone.