Ex-Colchester United keeper Bransgrove on his life in accountancy and with Coggeshall Town
PUBLISHED: 13:00 20 November 2018
Football writer CARL MARSTON catches up with ex-Colchester United keeper James Bransgrove, who traded professional football for accountancy
James Bransgrove retired from professional football at the very young age of 21, but two years on and he is enjoying his football again, while pursuing a new career in the world of business and accountancy.
It was a momentous decision for Bransgrove to turn his back on the Football League, and the possibility of a fruitful career at Colchester United, just before Christmas, 2016.
The Harlow-born goalkeeper had made his league debut just a few months earlier, on the final day of the 2015-16 season at home to Rochdale (May 8, 2016), and had started an EFL Trophy game against Southampton Under-23s the following season.
Having walked away from the game, to pursue a life outside football, Bransgrove is now back between the sticks playing on a part-time basis with ambitious Coggeshall Town – he has been with the upwardly-mobile Seed Growers for over a year.
The 23-year-old was a mainstay for Coggeshall during last season’s promotion from the Eastern Counties League (Thurlow Nunn) Premier Division, clocking up 35 appearances, and he has been a big reason why the Essex side are pushing for yet another promotion this term, in the Bostik (Isthmian) League North.
If successful, this would mean a fourth consecutive promotion.
“It’s nearly two years since I made that decision to retire,” explained Bransgrove, following his latest outing, a 3-2 win at Bury Town last Saturday.
“I had a year out of the game, but fortunately through a few mutual connections I got the chance here (at Coggeshall).
“I did mull it over, I must admit, but (manager) Graeme (Smith) got me down and I actually really enjoyed last season, although with all respect to the other teams in that league, it wasn’t the greatest standard.
“But it was nice to find my feet, and it’s just been nice to enjoy my football again. I must admit I am enjoying it.
“I’m still doing my accountancy (honours degree with the Open University). I’m actually working for Robbie Cowling (Colchester United’s owner and chairman) still, regarding the finances of the club, and I still have another two-and-a-half-years left of my degree, in Accountancy and Business Management.
“But time has moved on. I’ve really enjoyed it, but from a personal point of view the frustrating thing is that – as people I played with and those that managed me will know – I do like to set my standards high.
“It’s frustrating not being able to get back there. OK, we have the limitations in that we train just twice a week, and for a very limited time for just an hour-and-a-half or two hours maximum, so it’s very different to Colchester.
“At the end of the day it’s your reputation when you go over the line. Reputation-wise, I achieved very little in the game, but you still go to places and people still come up to you and recognise you, which is a nice thing.
“But the last thing you want to do is to be known as someone who had time off, after having a half-decent crack at it, and has now become a nobody.
“That’s the most frustrating thing, but I try to do my best and do what I can. I’m just grateful that Colchester United gave me the chance, and that now Graeme (Smith) and Polly (assistant John Pollard) and everyone else have welcomed me into the team,” added Bransgrove.
A product of the Colchester United Academy, which he joined in 2013, Bransgrove made his one and only appearance in the Football League when Steve Ball was caretaker boss, on the final day of the 2015-16 campaign.
He was only expected to be on the bench that day, but fellow young keeper Dillon Barnes, who dons the current U’s No. 1 jersey, was caught up in traffic and so missed the start of the match, a 2-1 defeat at Rochdale.
These days, Bransgrove is enjoying success with Coggeshall, in a team that includes several other players with Colchester United connections, including Connor Hubble, Dexter Peter, Josh Pollard, Tyler Brampton and Nnamdi Nwachuku.
“Originally, we set out to just establish ourselves in this new league,” explained Bransgrove.
“But the way we have cracked on, why not go all the way and win another promotion?
“The club has momentum, and we have kept a decent percentage of players from last year. That winning mentality is something that made it a lot easier last year.
“Early doors we drew (0-0 v Bowers & Pitsea) and we lost (4-2 at Dereham), and we’re thinking OK, but we have gone on a good unbeaten run (11 league games).
“We have another good local derby on Saturday, against Maldon & Tiptree, so win that and we are all of a sudden up there and creating a little gap between ourselves and the play-off teams.”