Matt Edwards
Thursday 29 November 2018

We caught up with goalkeeper James Montgomery this week to discover more about a very famous family member, the patience he had to show before getting his chance at The New Lawn and what it meant to him to play his first League game.

When you hear the family name Montgomery and goalkeeper together it is hard to not think of the legendary Sunderland stopper and record appearance maker Jimmy Montgomery.

It would be no surprise then that his cousin’s grandson has gone on to make a career of his own between the sticks.

However, it was not a natural path into the professional game for Forest Green Rovers stopper James Montgomery.

“It was probably the last position I tried,” explained the 24-year-old.

“I started playing when I was about three or four, going to different soccer schools and played Under 8s when I was six.

“I was a striker originally but as I started getting older I started getting a little bit slower and I wasn’t getting a career out of it, playing at centre-back or right-wing, where I used to play back in the day.

“On the off chance, one of the lads from school hurt his ankle and I said I would put the gloves on and I had a good game and my school teacher said I should give it a try.

“The next year, last year of school and first year of college, I was picked up by Middlesbrough and stuck with it from there.” 

James Montgomery programme

James is actually named after his father rather than the goalkeeping hero, but admits that he can barely talk to anyone in his home town of Sunderland without being told stories of his relative and one save in particular.

It came in the second half of the FA Cup final in 1973 against the then formidable side of Don Revie’s Leeds United, who had Terry Cooper - father of Forest Green manager Mark Cooper - in their squad but absent from the final with a broken leg.

Jimmy was crucial to Sunderland lifting the trophy at Wembley with what is described as the best double save ever, first denying Trevor Cherry’s header before somehow returning to his feet to push Peter Lorimer’s close-range follow up onto the bar. 

I had been in non-league football for years and played lots of games there but to finally say I had played in the League, it was nice. I’m just taking it in my stride and I am happy to be part of this club.
James Montgomery

“Everyone always talks about that save,” says Montgomery.

“Once you see it you can’t get it out of your head. I would love to be able to make one of them myself, that was special given the occasion and everything that went with it.

“Playing against the mighty Leeds at the time, who were a massive club, no one gave Sunderland a chance. The timing of the game, the stage it was on and the actual save itself, I think that is why it goes down as the best save ever in my opinion, but I am going to be biased.

“He is a Sunderland legend.”

Fast forward 30 years and James was being released by Middlesbrough as a teenager and being told that the National League was probably the highest he could set his ambitions in the game.

However, having impressed at Telford United and Gateshead, he was picked up by Forest Green Rovers this summer and was soon making his first Football League start.

“I’m just taking it in my stride and I am happy to be part of this club.”

James Montgomery had to be patient as he waited to tick off that milestone, having impressed between the sticks in the Checkatrade Trophy and League Cup.

His first League start came at the end of October, an evening game with Tranmere Rovers, and it will live long in the memory as he helped FGR to an impressive 3-1 victory.

“Even though it was a long time for me to get a consistent run of games, I’ve enjoyed being at the club a lot,” he said when asked about his first start.

“We knew it would be a battle for the number one shirt and Sanch (Robert Sanchez) came in and got it at the beginning of the season and has done well in the games he has played and proven his quality.

“When we’re on the pitch we are essentially each other’s enemies because we are fighting for the same shirt but off the pitch we get on really well and in training we have such a laugh.

“I didn’t find out that I was starting until quite late on. It was a Tuesday night game and we were still recovering on the Monday from the Saturday so we didn’t do the team shape or the squad until late on.

“I had been in non-league football for years and played lots of games there but to finally say I had played in the League, it was nice.

“It was nice for my family because they have come down to all of my games but they couldn’t’ get down to that one because it was a Tuesday night, which is typical.

“The lads in front of me were outstanding that night and took a lot of the pressure off of me.” 

On the off chance, one of the lads from school hurt his ankle and I said I would put the gloves on and I had a good game and my school teacher said I should give it a try.
James Montgomery

The eagle-eyed in the crowd, or those who follow him on social media will have noticed that James Montgomery wears a specific brand of goalkeeping glove when he plays – Viper Goalkeeping.

It is a company co-owned by the goalkeeper and a friend from back home, Carl Morris, with the 24-year-old knowing that he needs to have a fall back when football comes to an end one day.

“Football is my priority at the moment but I am enjoying having this little project on the side, bringing in new designs, and it’s something I am quite passionate about,” he said.

“We want to make a good business so that when my time in football is up – I’m not going to play forever – I have something that can be there as a good business.” 

James Montgomery programme 3

Tonight’s game is our dedicated Stonewall game, an LGBT equality charity that aims to make sport inclusive for all, something that James Montgomery can fully support, with FGR’s players wearing rainbow laces for the game with Colchester to show their support.

“It’s the biggest sport in the world and I don’t think it would be if it was a sport that discriminates against people,” he added.

“You look around the world and it is the one sport that everyone can play and speak through.

“The number of people in the sport that are from different backgrounds and no matter your sexual orientation, it is a sport everyone should feel like they can play.

“I think it is evolving even more to be more diverse and I think that is only good for the sport itself and everyone involved because it can be a getaway for anyone.”

For James, Jimmy will always be a figure to look up to any time he puts his gloves on and walks over the white line.

But now he is keen to make a name for himself that people will continue to talk about decades after he hangs up his boots, starting with the Forest Green faithful.

“I just want to be the best I can be,” he concluded.

“I can’t compare myself to anybody else because I am not them, as simple as that.

“I just want to be the best I can be and win whatever I am involved in.

“If I can have a nice day in football where I manage to play in a final and win it, whatever it may be, I’d be happy.”