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Opposition spotlight: America and Back – A Goalkeeepers Tale

Posted by Kelly Gilchrist
Posted on Fri 13 Jan 2017
Posted in First Team

The Tamworth shot-stopper is our opposition focus this weekend, which sees us go on a rather extraordinary journey.

 26-year-old Belshaw from Nottingham has certainly taken an unusual path to find himself playing at the Lamb Ground, a path which involved him turning down the chance to join MLS side Chicago Fire.

His footballing venture began on these shores in the white and red of Walsall. After an impressive display in a Youth Cup clash with Chelsea, the then 17-year-old Belshaw caught the attention of a scout from Duke University, Durham.

Oh, I forgot to mention- this was Durham, North Carolina – a private university ranked just outside the top 20 in the world that had come calling for his services.

In return for his goalkeeping ability demonstrated at Walsall he was offered an athlete scholarship where he studied Business off the field of play.  

Once the offer was on the table, Belshaw had no hesitation in turning down the move.

“I was only 18 when I went out there and had never been to the States before” said Belshaw when he spoke to Tamworth Herald back in July 2014 when he signed for the club.

“But an athlete scholarship – from one of the top Universities in the world – how could I turn that down? I was being paid to go to school there, it was a dream.”

This adventure transformed him from boy to man, as he arrived at Tamworth branded the ‘fittest keeper’ the club has ever seen.

This, according to Belshaw, was down to the rigorous regime he was placed under the moment his plane touched down on American soil.

“Training every morning from 8-11 am was not easy” said Belshaw, “We were taught how to look after ourselves. We were given specific nutritional diets to follow, which in the end shaped us into athletes” he added.

“All the athletes over there had the same deal though, the golf guys, American football team etc. so we all had a tight bond as we were going through the same experiences.”

James put in the effort in the lecture halls and out on the pitch, which saw him graduate six months ahead of schedule.

This rapid conclusion to his time at Duke allowed him access into the MLS Draft in July 2013.

Belshaw was plucked out by Chicago Fire, who had gathered some media attention in recent times when Freddie Ljungberg rocked up at the Toyota Park in 2010 for one season.

Fire had finished 6th in the league standings in the previous campaign, however their acquisition of Belshaw wasn’t the dream scenario he was looking for.

After being told during negotiations that we would be third choice keeper, he decided the time was right to return home.

He felt that after being away for four years, the time was right for him to try his chances back in England.

Current National League North side Nuneaton was his ticket out of the States, where he spent 12 months at Liberty Way.

Despite the club exploding out the blocks in the 2013/14 season (playing in the Conference Premier at that time) and maintaining a high position throughout campaign Nuneaton dropped off in the later stages to finish 13th.

The summer of 2014 finally saw his globe-trotting journey reach Tamworth where he has remained ever since.

He’s rocked up over 100 appearances for the club and been an integral part of manager Andy Morrel’s plans.

However, a statistic to note for Shaymen supporters ahead of Saturdays is that Tamworth have only kept two clean sheets this season, thus they have the highest goals conceded across the top ten sides in the division with 39 – seven more than Halifax Town have leaked.

Despite this they occupy the final play-off position in the league standings, so it’s another tough task for the Shaymen, as they look to build on Tuesday nights impressive 2-1 display.

Read more posts by Kelly Gilchrist