One of the most improved Arsenal youngsters of last season, James Shea will be looking to do it all over again this time around.
Initially Arsenal only offered James an extension to his scholarship for this season. However, his performance at Anfield in the 2nd leg of the FA Youth Cup was so impressive that Liam Brady eventually decided to reward the Islington-born shot stopper a professional contract instead.
It has been a rocky road to this point for Shea. From making the transition from a midfielder to a goalkeeper early on in his career, to making his debut for the u-18s in the most unforseen circumstances against Crystal Palace two seasons ago following an injury to Wojciech Szczesny.
Yet he is here and is determined to make the most of it. With Szczesny and Vito Mannone now part of the first-team squad, Shea looks set to be a regular for the Reserves this season and, although his lack of height remains an issue, his shot stopping ability is second to none.
Shea has spent countless hours on the lush training pitches of London Colney perfecting his saving ability from close range and now it is beginning to pay off. But it is not just his own work which has aided him. For a short spell last season Shea, along with the other young goalkeepers at the club, had the privelige of working alongside Arsenal legend David Seaman, something which has helped to improve his game indefinitely.
Sean McDermott has come in and will certainly keep Shea on his toes if his pre-season performances are anything to go by. Shea was named in the club’s Champions League squad for the first time last week and handed the no.49 shirt.
It is unlikely Shea will have a long-term future in North London. However, those tips from Seaman will no doubt be remembered wherever his career takes him.