Gateshead goalkeeper James Montgomery ready to move on from injury nightmare and embrace new role
The Heed goalkeeper has reflected on a difficult 12 months on and off the pitch.
Gateshead goalkeeper James Montgomery is back after an injury nightmare (photo Jack McGraghan)
Even the routine bumps and bruises are bringing a smile to the face of James Montgomery.
For best part of a year, the Gateshead goalkeeper has watched on from the sidelines as his team-mates romped to the National League North title and made their way to the second round of the FA Cup.
A serious leg injury suffered during Chesterfield’s National League play-off defeat against Notts County in June last year and painstaking rehabilitation that followed robbed Montgomery of playing a bigger role in the Heed’s historic title win.
But now, after the pain and stress, and several withdrawn contract offers at League Two clubs, he is back and has featured in Gateshead’s pre-season friendlies against Sunderland, Newcastle United, Dunston UTS and Hebburn Town.
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Montgomery opened up on a year of contrasting emotions and revealed he is relishing the opportunity to experience the day-to-day knocks that every player experiences throughout their career.
Reflecting on the last 12 months, he told The Echo: “It’s been a very mentally tough year, one the my happiest in football, but also one of the most challenging.
“It was lovely to end it on a high, winning the league with the lads, all great people and getting promotion.
“Everyone knows Gateshead has a special place in my heart, the club means everything to me and has done since I came here - but I went through a long time not playing and that was horrible because every player wants to be out there and
“After the Newcastle game, I had quite a bit of inflammation on my hip and a few bruises - I laughed it off, it was a case of ‘yeah, this is how it is meant to feel’.
“It felt right feeling those aches and pains once again.
“I still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be but it’s all about getting the games in now and I’m really enjoying it.”
Montgomery is not the only goalkeeper enjoying his time at Gateshead.
Newcastle United stopper Dan Langley joined the National League newcomers on loan earlier this month and is looking to make the most of his first involvement in senior football.
The youngster is highly-rated within the Magpies academy and will hope to follow the examples of former Heed loan keepers Aynsley Pears, Brad James, Jacob Chapman and Felipe Marschall, who all made a serious impact during their time at the International Stadium.
Montgomery is determined to challenge Langley and ensure Mike Williamson has a big call to make when it comes to deciding his number one keeper throughout the upcoming season.
“I want to push Dan as much as I can and be the best I can be,” he explained.
“I will get there because I am determined to do that for this football club and we have to look to bring out the best in each other.
“Competition is a motivating factor for any footballer, no matter what their position is.
“It’s all about what’s best for the club and if that’s Dan player, then so be it, but I’ll make sure he is pushed as much as he can be.
“If it’s me playing for whatever reason, I have to make sure I am giving everything for the club and being the goalkeeper they need me to be.”
At the age of 28, Montgomery’s eyes are very much on the present, but thoughts are also turning towards his future and life after playing.
Retirement is not at the front of his mind for now and his focus is on embracing the challenges of combining playing duties with his new role as a goalkeeper coach.
Away from his on-field duties, the former England C stopper founded the Montè goalkeeper glove company two years ago next week and that has gone from strength to strength.
The challenges in business and in football are obvious - but Montgomery is ready to embrace what lies ahead of him throughout the remainder of his career and beyond.
“I’ve really enjoyed pre-season and being a coach, especially when I can pull myself out of the little bits of running,” he joked.
“Obviously, I have a different role, thinking about being a coach as well as a player and that’s a challenge in itself.
“But I am loving it, it’s a great experience.
“I think that’s where I see myself long-term and I am hoping I can have a better career as a coach when I retire than I have as a player.
“But there are no plans to retire just yet but I am thinking about the future.
“I am trying to set myself up with the glove business and the coaching side as well. I’ve just got my ‘C’ Licence and now I just want to improve as a coach and keep going for as long as I can.”