David James Teaches Me To Stop A 90mph Shot… Or Not

By Ollie Irish

Jamo – the man, the myth, the hair

Last month I spent the afternoon with David James at Portsmouth’s training ground, courtesy of E-ON’s Great Saves FA Cup campaign. I was there to learn some basic goalkeeping skills, and to try not to remember how hungover I was, but mostly to be used for human target practice, in the firing line of a machine that could fire a football at you at up to 100mph.

The idea was to see how it feels to be on the end of the sort of thunderous shot that normally I only write about from behind the safety and comfort of my laptop. It feels as you’d expect – slightly dangerous, but also fun.

Firstly though, us hacks ‘enjoyed’ a training session with Pompey goalkeeping coach David Coles. Dave is a lovely fella, an Aldershot legend and the spitting double of Bobby Davro. Boy did Dave put us through our paces. He had us diving around like lunatics, and on rock hard, sun-baked ground (I still have the bruises). What did I learn? That I don’t want to be a goalkeeper. It’s very, VERY tough work, especially with the sun beating down on your back. I have a newfound respect for all keepers, especially as they must cope with these new, super-swervy balls.

Then it was into the firing line, with Jamo – in a mood best decribed as ‘jovial but sadistic’ – at the controls, a camera strapped to my head to capture the action. I think I saved one ferociously hard shot, by sticking my left hand out, instinctively. It was a complete fluke, I’ll admit it. At speeds in excess of 70mph, you simply don’t have time to see the ball, let alone think about how to save it. For us amateurs, it was more a case of damage limitation.

Watch a video of the afternoon’s activities…

Painful but happy memories.

Thanks to the good people at E-ON and especially Jamo for a top afternoon in the sun. David is genuinely one of the nicest, most charming players I have ever met. Plus he’s a fan of Ninja Warrior, which makes him a legend in my book. Shame there aren’t more like him.

Check out E-ON’s Great Saves