James Trafford: Man City's teenage goalkeeper following in Ederson's footsteps

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The 19-year-old started life as a midfielder, only to convert to playing between the sticks, where he has already caught Pep Guardiola's eye

Manchester City’s academy goalkeeper James Trafford had a clever way of getting himself noticed by Pep Guardiola.

In a post-training penalty shootout, the England youth international kept out a spot-kick from the City boss!

“He just started laughing,” Trafford tells GOAL in an exclusive interview. “They often take penalties at the end of training. He'd always say if you'd done well in training and he’s been really good with me.”

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The highly-rated youngster is one of a number of talented, young goalkeepers coming through the City academy, with teenage Ireland international Gavin Bazunu enjoying a fine season on loan at Portsmouth, while Netherlands Under-18 international Mikki van Sans is the regular starter for the club's U23s in Premier League 2.

Ahead of all of them, of course, is Ederson, who is firmly established as the club's first choice while United States number one Zack Steffen provides high-quality back-up.

City, then, are more than well-stocked for quality goalkeepers, but that is not going to affect the ambition of 19-year-old Trafford.

“If I didn't believe I could do it I would just leave, because what's the point in being at a club where you don't see yourself as being number one?” he says.

“I’m not really bothered about the money - if I didn't see myself as becoming City's number one, I wouldn't be here.”

The teenager spent much of last season around the first-team squad at City, learning from goalkeeping coach Xabi Mancisidor, whom Guardiola rates as the best in the world.

Trafford was on the bench as the third-choice 'keeper for the Champions League victories away to Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, as well as the Carabao Cup semi-final win at Manchester United, and was the number two against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in the Premier League.

Training alongside Ederson, Steffen and the paternal figure of third-choice Scott Carson was an enlightening environment which showed him exactly what was needed to succeed at the top.

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“The biggest thing I learned from all of them is that they're always at it,” Trafford says. “It doesn't matter whether they get back at midnight and the night before they’ve travelled on the plane for hours, everyday they're at it - they don't have a day off.

“It's why they are where they are, they push each other and you have to rise to their level or you're screwed You'd kill the session.

“You just have to keep getting better and better because Ederson’s at a level where no one else is really at. On the ball, he's just as good as some of the outfield players, it’s just a joke.”

Like Ederson, Cumbrian-born Trafford started his footballing career as an outfield player, but was convinced to switch to playing in goal.

He had trials at League Two outfit Carlisle United as a midfielder, but his father suggested taking being a goalkeeper more seriously.

“I always played in goal with my dad and he thought I was quite good, but I didn’t have a clue about football,” he recalls. “He was saying, 'you're a goalkeeper, and I said, 'no, I'm a midfielder,' because no one really wants to be a goalie.

“Whenever we went to training he always used to put my gloves in in the car, and one time at training they said we need another goalie and I gave it a go, got my gloves and loved it.”

Trafford trained under Carlisle’s former head of academy goalkeeping Ben Benson, who also discovered Manchester United and England star Dean Henderson, and believed the City youngster had potential to succeed in the position.

He was spotted by City at the age of 12 and moved to Manchester, living in club accommodation during the week before travelling back for weekend’s on the family farm.

Players such as James McAtee and CJ Egan-Riley, both of whom have made debuts for the City first-team this season, grew up alongside Trafford, and that 2002-born group remain close, encouraging one another onto further success.

“We wouldn't say it to each other’s faces because we're young lads so we like to have a joke about it, but we all want the best for each other and we all back each other up,” he explains. “It's a really close group.”

This season, Trafford is on a season-long loan at League One side Accrington Stanley, and has started half their league games thus far, keeping two clean sheets.

With one of the lowest budgets in the division, the Wham Stadium is a world away from the state-of-the-art facilities at City’s Etihad Campus, but Stanley are also one of the best run clubs in the country, avoiding high risks in the hope of instant success.

“The biggest difference is youth-team football is a lot more predictable (compared to first-team),” Trafford says. “Everyone tries to keep the ball, it's more possession-oriented and a lot more predictable. If there's a loose ball, nine times out of 10, they'll try get it down on the deck and play it.

“Playing in the league and first-team football, it's a lot more hitting areas and it's more unpredictable for a goalkeeper. At any moment the ball could come in behind the defence and you could have to come out for it. Youth-team football, you can kind of anticipate when it's coming."

As well as earning experience at Accrington, Trafford has also been a regular for England U20s this season, having represented the Three Lions at every age-group since U16s.

For a reluctant goalkeeper who had to be cajoled into taking on the gloves, then, Trafford's future could be huge.

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