Goalkeeper James Trafford has certainly captured the attention of the footballing world. He has emerged as the hero for England’s U21 national team, which recently triumphed at the European Under-21 Championship, a feat not achieved in 39 years.
In the final held in Georgia, the English team secured a narrow 1-0 victory against Spain. The decisive goal came in added time of the first half, scored accidentally by Curtis Jones, who deflected the ball into the net off his back.
However, the crucial moment came during stoppage time when Spain was awarded a penalty. Captain Abel Ruiz took the shot, but Trafford’s impressive save denied them the chance to equalize. Moreover, he also managed to stop the rebound, showcasing his talent with a double save in the 99th minute of the match, significantly contributing to his team’s success.
What’s even more remarkable is that the young goalkeeper didn’t concede a single goal throughout the entire tournament, resulting in six clean sheets leading to England’s title win.
At the club level, James Trafford is set to become Burnley’s most expensive new signing. The newly-promoted Premier League club has reached an agreement with Manchester City for his transfer, worth £15 million, with potential bonuses that could raise the overall value to £19 million.
This move would make Trafford the third most expensive English goalkeeper, following Aaron Ramsdale and Jordan Pickford. His impressive performance during his loan spell at Bolton in League 1 contributed to this recognition.
Only two years ago, Trafford was playing for Accrington Stanley on loan. However, he never lost sight of his main ambition – to become England’s number one goalkeeper.
“I have always believed in myself since the beginning of my men’s football career, even when I was at Accrington. I told people that one day I would play for England and for Man City. The people around me believed in me, and that belief is still strong,” Trafford said in an interview with Bolton News.
His significant role in England’s triumph at Euro 2023 Under-21 has further solidified his ambitions.
“I aspire to play at the highest level. My time at Bolton was great, and I performed well for them. I carried my form from League 1 into the Euros,” Trafford shared in an interview with BBC in Georgia.
James Trafford hails from a farming family with little interest in football. He has recounted explaining the offside rule to his family while learning to drive a tractor. Growing up in such a unique family environment sets him apart from other footballers in Manchester City’s academy.
At the age of 12, he joined Carlisle but soon caught the attention of his Manchester City and England U21 teammate, Cole Palmer.
“Wow, he’s really good. You can see it in the academy. Even in training, it’s really hard to score against him. I’m glad everyone is seeing it. He knows how good he is, but he’s not arrogant. He’s a good boy, down to earth, just believes in himself. When he first joined the national team, everyone wondered who this guy was. Over time, everyone started noticing him and saying, ‘Wow.’ He just focuses on his work. I’ve always told him, even when we were kids, that he will play at a world-class level,” Palmer shared. According to him, Trafford has the potential to reach the level of current City goalkeeper Ederson and may even take his place one day. A buy-back option is included in the deal with Burnley, indicating that “The Citizens” have considered this possibility.
James has already earned the respect of his England U21 national team peers.
“When you have such a confident and skilled goalkeeper behind you, it boosts your confidence. He may be quiet off the field, but on the field, he’s the opposite – extremely vocal and delivers outstanding performances in every game we play. He believes he can play in a Champions League final. That’s a huge confidence boost for a young goalkeeper like him,” said James Garner, the midfielder for Everton and England U21.
Trafford joined Bolton in January of the previous year and became the first goalkeeper in the club’s history to keep four clean sheets in his first four matches.
During the past season, he was named Bolton’s best young player with a total of 26 clean sheets.
At the European Championship, he added six more clean sheets and impressed England U21 coach Lee Carsley, who said, “James has shown that he’s a high-level goalkeeper. He’s very consistent and impresses even in training. The other players are also impressed, and I believe he has a bright future,” ahead of the final against Spain.
At only 20 years old, James Trafford is already attracting significant transfer fees, a common occurrence among English footballers. Whether he will achieve great success in men’s football remains to be seen, and only time will provide the answer.