Needham Market sign former Arsenal goalkeeper

He was on Arsenal’s bench for the Gunners’ Champions League game in Montpellier a year ago, but this weekend James Shea will hope to write his name in FA Cup folklore with Needham Market.

The 22-year-old has signed for Mark Morsley’s men to ease a goalkeeping crisis at Bloomfields and will make his debut against Suffolk rivals AFC Sudbury this weekend.

First-choice goalkeeper Andrew Plummer is out with a torn hamstring, while goalkeeping coach Nathan Munson has an achilles problem.

Shea won the FA Youth Cup and Premier Academy League with the North London side and still trains with Arsene Wenger’s squad, having been released from The Emirates in the summer. He found himself on the bench for Arsenal’s game in France, behind Vito Mannone, as a result of injuries to Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski.

Colchester-born Sam Cowler will play in the Marketmen’s league games and featured in last night’s Suffolk Premier Cup game with Walsham-le-Willows, having signed on an open-ended loan from Bishop’s Stortford, but he isn’t permitted to play in the FA Cup by his parent club.

Therefore, the spotlight will be on Shea, who has spent time on loan at Dagenham & Redbridge and also trained with MLS outfit Colarado Rapids earlier this year.

“We are limited to what we can do and it is always a gamble bringing in an unknown,” said Morsley.

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“But the FA Cup always offers a chance for a hero to step forward and win you the game and Saturday’s tie is a big one locally.

“James is looking for a club, preferably a pro club and I know there will be scouts from Ipswich Town and Colchester’s academies coming to watch the game, so who knows what could happen?

“He’s a confident, nice lad, but not big-time and if on the day he doesn’t find himself a deal, who is to say he won’t stay here longer.”

Despite having not played a game for Arsenal, Shea still represents a high-profile signing for Market – the latest in a line that includes former Football League stars Ian Westlake, Jamie Guy and Kem Izzet.

Morsley explained how the deal materialised.

“I brought in Sam Cowler who is the number two at Bishop’s Stortford and their recruitment manager is a guy called Steve Pitt,” he said.

“He helped us get Sam and he knew about James and explained that he had not been picked up by a club.”

He added: “It’s one of those situations you find yourself in when you have been a non-league manager for a long time and I would like to thank Barry Hegley, from our main club sponsors The Windscreen Company for helping with the nuts and bolts of the deal.”