FEATURE: This is prime-time for new Cobblers goalkeeper Steve Arnold
He may be approaching his 30th birthday, but new Cobblers goalkeeper Steve Arnold believes he is only just hitting his prime.
Arnold became the club’s eighth signing of the transfer window on Wednesday, joining for an undisclosed fee from Sky Bet League One side Shrewsbury Town.
He has been brought in to provide serious competition for David Cornell, who was the undisputed No.1 at the PTS Academy Stadium last season.
But having played 32 games for the Shrews last season before having his campaign prematurely ended by an injury, he will definitely have his sights on being top dog between the sticks at Town.
He has been at nine clubs in his career to date and played 212 games, but Arnold is convinced he is only now starting to show what he is really made of.
Asked if he was entering his prime, Arnold said: “I was thinking about that on the way here, because all of a sudden I am thinking ‘oh my God, I am close to 30!’
“But you forget that as a keeper you are in your prime at this age, and I really feel that in the past 18 months my overall game has just gone on to the next level.
“That just comes with experience.
“I think your prime as a goalkeeper is maybe between the ages of say, 28 and 33, if not older.
“You look at some of the goalies who are playing now and they are going on until well into their late 30s.
“So I do feel my overall game has improved vastly, and hopefully it will continue to do so next season.”
Arnold began his career at Norwich City, but he never made a first-team appearance at Carrow Road.
He moved to non-League Grays, where he caught the eye of Wycombe Wanderers and he joined the Chairboys , but again failed to play in the first team during his 18 months at the club.
He went on loan to Hayes & Yeading, before signing for Stevenage, where he played 36 games over a two-year spell, ahead of a transfer to Forest Green Rovers in the summer of 2014.
He spent two years at the National League side before switching to Dover Athletic, and then moving back into the EFL with Gillingham, but again he found himself sidelined.
Keen to play, Arnold left the Priestfield after just six months and signed for Barrow, before sealing his move to the Shrews last summer, and he was the No.1 at the New Meadow from October onwards until a hamstring strain saw him lose his place in March.
So what sort of goalkeeper would Arnold describe himself as being?
“I have a presence and I like to command my box,” said the 6ft 1in shot-stopper.
“Obviously, all goalkeepers make saves, but I love coming to claim crosses, and I think that is quite a big attribute to have in this league, or at least it was last season in league one.”
Arnold is now looking forward to starting his Cobblers career when he reports for pre-season training at the end of this month.
That will also be his first chance to get to know Cornell, who Arnold knows is going to be his big rival - but is also somebody he expects to become a friend.
There is of course only ever one spot up for grabs, and that, says Arnold, is one of the ‘weird’ things about being a shot-stopper at a football club.
“David Cornell is a great keeper, and I have seen his career,” said Arnold.
“It is a weird position to be in, because ultimately you do become close with the person you are training with day in and day out, but you want to play as well.
“Come the beginning of the season, whoever is playing will be doing so deservedly, and the one who is not playing will be waiting in the wings to jump straight in whenever that chance comes.
“As I said, it is quite unique that you do become close with the other goalkeeper, but you are vying for that one shirt.
“It is tough, it really is, but you have to want it.
“You have to want your mate to do well as well, because if he is then you know you have to bring your game up to the next level.
“So it works in that way, but at the same time it is a strange situation to be in, even though it is one we are now very used
Arnold has never been one to hang around and be happy sitting on the bench throughout his career, and he says that is simply down to his work ethic, and the fact he wants to be playing games.
“With injuries or a change of manager or whatever, you can never have that guarantee of a starting position at any club,” he said.
“What you can do is work hard, to always work hard, and I think that is just a given, the bare minimum.
“That is something I have always done, no matter the situation, and I will always continue to do that.”
After what has been a pretty nomadic career so far, Arnold is keen to find somewhere he can really call home.
He says he was very happy with his football life at Shrewsbury, but with his family based in Hertfordshire it wasn’t an ideal situation.
Northampton is obviously a lot closer to home, and Arnold is hoping he has found somewhere to lay down some proper roots.
“I felt at home at Shrewsbury last season, I thought ‘I love this club’, and it is a really, really good club, and it was hard to leave there.” he said.
“But ultimately, things have all got to fall into place and my family life wasn’t up there, which made it 10 times harder.
“So this is a club I feel I can really flourish at, and I look forward to doing so.”