James Shea’s triumphant return for AFC Wimbledon in victory at Charlton on Saturday was a victory for both loyalty and mental grit.
The former Arsenal keeper was the hero of Dons’ first away win since promotion to League One, a string of excellent saves capping a man of the match performance he hopes will mark a turning point in what has been a torrid 2016.
Discarded in favour of then Derby loanee Kelle Roos in January, the 25-year-old was consigned to the bench again when Ryan Clarke arrived from Northampton in the summer.
So while The Wombles’ stock continued to rise amid celebrations, Shea became if you will the only man at the party without a date to dance with.
Yet he insists there was never a thought of taking the easy way out.
“I’m over the moon to get my chance as it was always my aim to get back in,”
“I didn’t want to leave at the first sight of competition. Clarkey came in and the gaffer went with him for the first game of the season, but I didn’t just want to get myself out on loan or sulk or anything.”
“It has been tough, very tough, but I just wanted to keep my head down, showing what I can do and get back to where I was a couple of seasons ago really.
“Hopefully I’m getting there, I’m just glad to be back and now I’ve got to keep the shirt and make it mine again.”
Shea was very matter of fact about the heroics which kept Dons in a game they would have long since lost until goals from Dominic Poleon and Tyrone Barnett produced a late turnaround.
And he stressed relief at the comeback game being behind him.
“That’s my job to make saves and keep the ball out of the net if possible, he added.
“I’m buzzing to be back in and thankfully the team won today really.
But I’m glad the first one is over. “I haven’t played for a long time, so at 2-1 up you just want the game to end.”