Simply Red: Former Arsenal keeper’s bizarre start to life at Harrow Borough

PUBLISHED: 18:45 05 November 2013 | UPDATED: 18:45 05 November 2013

James Shea

James Shea


Every season a supporter of a non-league club is pretty-much guaranteed to see a string of signings passing in front of his or her eyes.

Many are there just for a few weeks and after a year or two on it can be difficult to put a face to a name, when looking back at ‘who played against so-and-so on such-and-such a date’.

Very, very rarely can it be said that a new signing causes genuine excitement. But that was the case a week ago at Earlsmead when former Arsenal goalkeeper James Shea put pen to paper and signed for Harrow Borough.

With Wojciech Szczesny and Lukas Fabianski ahead of him in the pecking order at the Emirates, James had been released in the summer.

In his time at the Emirates, however, Shea had been good enough to get on the bench in a Champions League tie, perform a miracle save at Old Trafford that’s a ‘must see’ on ‘YouTube’ in a reserve game, and be called in to work alongside Joe Hart in an England squad that were training at Arsenal’s London Colney centre.

More recently, as a free agent Shea had been in goal for Needham Market in their FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie with runaway Conference leaders Cambridge United, getting national radio and press attention as he kept out the Us single-handedly, making about 10 saves of the highest class, before being beaten by the only goal in the dying minutes.

With the move to Harrow already set up when that cup-tie took place, Borough boss Dave Anderson had to move very smartly to ensure that it remained so, with a gaggle of clubs suddenly alerted and beating a path to Shea’s Islington home.

Shea’s Harrow career began in very bizarre style last Tuesday, when Borough faced Soham Town Rangers in the League Cup.

Rather than come to Earlsmead and then travel back in the opposite direction, it was arranged that James would board the team coach at South Mimms services.

There he awaited the bus, only for a lorry fire to block the entrance. Receiving a phone-called description (no doubt in Anderson’s broad Ulster brogue, probably not the easiest to understand over a mobile) of what physio Samantha Backhouse looks like (for she too was being picked up at South Mimms), the two never having met, he and his new ‘blind-date’ had to run out on to the junction roundabout to catch the coach.

James went on to have an assured, if quiet, debut, beaten by a second half penalty in a comfortable 4-1 Harrow win.

Then on Saturday, against league strugglers Cray Wanders, it was another solid but uneventful display. Harrow won 4-2, a Steve Butterworth hat-trick the highlight, and Shea had no chance with either of Cray’s strikes, a close-range effort and another penalty.

Harder games are sure to follow, and the Earlsmead faithful wait to see if their man from the Emirates will prove to be the business between the posts.

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