Goalkeepers are arguably the most important component of a side, just ask Manchester City and Liverpool, who were transformed with the presence of Ederson and Alisson respectively. Or ask Manchester United, who struggled with theirs last season. Therefore, when a young, talented goalie appears on the scene, there is a premium on their head. There are many appearing in Manchester City. A year after selling Gavin Bazunu to Southampton, City’s James Trafford is on his way to Burnley in a record move worth almost £19 million.
So, who is James Trafford, and why are Vincent Kompany’s team willing to splash the cash on a player who was playing in League One last season? Here’s the lowdown-
Who is James Trafford?
James Trafford is the latest wunderkind from a Manchester City academy quickly becoming famous for producing world-class players.
Trafford hopes to follow in the footsteps of players like Romeo Lavia and Gavin Bazunu who moved away from the club in search of first-team opportunities and flourished.
The 20-year-old goalkeeper joined City’s academy at the age of 12, in 2015. He made his U18 debut for them in 2018/19, as a 16-year-old. His progress was rapid, as within three years of his debut, he was sent on loan to Accrington Stanley for his first senior football experience.
Trafford spent the last two seasons on loan at Bolton where he has become a fan favourite.
Burnley clearly see something in him which has convinced them to open their chequebook despite third-tier football being the highest level he has played at in his career so far.
So, what is it?
Unlike outfielders, where each player at each position in each role can have a different playing style and profile, goalkeepers, in over-simplified terms, can be divided into two categories- Sweeper-keeper and a traditional goalkeeper.
James Trafford falls in the earlier bunch, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering his footballing education has come under Pep Guardiola’s style of football.
Trafford used to be an outfielder, which has naturally lent itself to him having great distribution skills and ball-progressing qualities.
Like his senior at the club, Ederson, Trafford thrives playing as an extra outlet when his team has possession.
Then, his traditional goalkeeping skills have been honed by his loan moves. Teams in lower tiers generally don’t play on the ground as much so the goalkeeper needs to improve upon his kicking as well as his reflexes and shot-saving.
James Trafford has come leaps and bounds in both categories.
Standing at 1.92 metres, he also has enough aerial reach to command the box and deter the opposition’s threat in the air.
At his best, he can be the ideal modern goalkeeper for a team which wants to play progressive football. That takes us to his potential-
James Trafford potential
Trafford is a clean sheet machine. While clean sheets are obviously the work of a collective in defence instead of a single man’s heroics, if a goalkeeper is consistently leading that metric, then some flowers are due.
That has been the case with Trafford.
He has six in 10 games for Man City U18s, six in 13 for the U21s, and 33 in 74 for Bolton Wanderers.
The last one is particularly noticeable as he kept 26 clean sheets last season alone. He was voted Bolton’s Young Player of the Year.
Trafford has shown rapid progress in his career so far and considering keepers’ peak arrives later than an outfielder’s, the sky is the limit for him.
He signed a five-year contract at Manchester City just last season which was a huge sign of confidence in his abilities by the club.
One doesn’t need to look further to make a senior comparison. He shows shades of Ederson in his game with his confident distribution skills and good shot-saving qualities.
Obviously, he has a long way to go yet to make that comparison a reality. That’s where his next career move comes in-
James Trafford at Burnley
There will undoubtedly be some questions about Trafford’s suitability to make the jump from League One to a potential relegation scrap in the Premier League.
Burnley ripped the competition apart thanks to Vincent Kompany’s tactics in the Championship last season but the Premier League is a huge step up.
This would be truer still for Trafford as he skips the Championship entirely.
However, he is going to the perfect team for his development. In Vincent Kompany, he will have world football’s most promising young coaches to learn from. He stresses a modern style of play instead of a “kick and run” tactic which should be right up Trafford’s alley.
Furthermore, Burnley’s current No 1, Arijanet Muric is also a City academy graduate. So, Trafford will have first-hand guidance from someone who has walked the same path as him.
At the reported price of £19 million, it is a certainty that James Trafford is coming to play as the first choice. However, even if his game takes time to flourish, the safety net of Muric, plus the lack of expectations from Burnley means he can grow and realise his potential with less pressure.
Still, the transfer fee will hover around his head as the biggest pressure point. Burnley will hope the step up from League One to Premier League goes smoothly for the Englishman.
Who knows, maybe a spell back at Cityzens awaits the young prodigy. The club have full belief in his ability which is why they are also reportedly including a buy-back clause in the deal.
The football world could yet see Trafford lining up for the blue side of Manchester at Old Trafford.