Thursday 23 May 2019

Talbot back in love with football after break from the game

James Talbot. Photo: Sportsfile
James Talbot. Photo: Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Last year, James Talbot was just another kid back from England with only mental scars to show for his experience.

He wanted a break from the game, and the business of goalkeeping.

After five years with Sunderland, where he trained regularly with Jordan Pickford, Talbot was playing GAA as a midfielder with Ballymun Kickhams.

Five-a-side run-outs and contact with friends was keeping him in touch with the football scene, but his mindset was such that he played centre-half for Home Farm in a competition last summer. He quips that he could probably do a job at a good level in that position.

Time was a healer, however, and having spurned previous advances from League of Ireland bosses, Talbot took a call from Bohemians boss Keith Long last autumn and agreed to return to between the sticks.

He expeted to be Shane Supple's understudy, but the latter's decision to retire suddenly made Talbot an important signing.

He has thrived this term and was yesterday named as the Airtricity/SWAI Player of the Month for April. Bohs have conceded just one goal from play, which is a testament to the performances of the 22-year-old.

His love for the sport has been restored with Supple now functioning as a mentor for the young netminder.

"I had phone calls to go back to England last year too," explains Talbot. "That was to sign at Conference level. But I didn't want to go back. It was more the fact that I wanted to get my head right. I was going to training in Sunderland and, as soon as it started, I was thinking, 'When is this over?' Looking back now, I'm glad I didn't go straight back into it. I wanted to start afresh."

His good friend Dan Casey - who has since joined Cork - was on the books of Bohs last year and Talbot liked what he saw when he visited. By his own admission, he was daunted by the prospect of replacing Supple, and every person he met over the winter told him there were big gloves to fill. However, he has warmed to the atmosphere around Dalymount and that's where he sees his immediate future.

Little traditions were passed down to him by the former number one. A young Bohs fan who comes to matches with her parents gave him a bottle of holy water which he leaves in his net during every match; it went missing during a recent win in Derry but was salvaged after full-time.

"I left it in Tallaght by accident too and had to run back for it," he smiles. "I keep the bottle in my house now.

"I'm really enjoying it here," he continues. "When I was playing GAA, it was more for enjoyment than anything else and the dressing room was quality.

"It's different when it means something to you and you look at Derek Pender (Bohs captain) and the lads here, it's great.

"I go back to my time in England at Sunderland and lads would be laughing and joking after getting beaten in (U-23) games. That's not the environment I wanted to be in.

"You need to be playing senior football. I saw a video of Detser (Pender) before the Shamrock Rovers game in the huddle, and you could see what it means to him.

"They're the sort of people you want to be playing with. I'd go to war with Detser. If he dropped there, I'd jump on him, I'd do anything for him.

"I was nervous when I came in here first, there was pressure and I was a bit safe trying to get through games, I was worrying too much about what people would think.

"But now I've got confidence, there's much more to come from me."

Irish Independent

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