James Belshaw almost certain to depart Harrogate Town following arrival of Mark Oxley

Simon Weaver has explained the thinking behind the decision to bring Mark Oxley in to replace James Belshaw as Harrogate Town’s number one.

By Rhys Howell
Thursday, 8th July 2021, 6:41 am
Updated Thursday, 8th July 2021, 6:44 am
Harrogate Town goalkeeper James Belshaw. Pictures: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town goalkeeper James Belshaw. Pictures: Matt Kirkham

The 30-year-old former Southend United goalkeeper was unveiled as the Sulphurites’ fifth summer signing last week and was immediately handed the shirt number that his team-mate had worn since his arrival at Wetherby Road in 2017.

And Weaver has subsequently confirmed that Oxley has been brought in as his first-choice stopper, a move that almost certainly spells the end of Belshaw’s time as a Harrogate player.

The Town boss was however keen to stress that his two-time promotion-winning custodian was informed of the decision to bring in a goalkeeper with more Football League experience back in May, and insists that there has been no fall-out behind the scenes.

Sign up to our daily Harrogate Advertiser Today newsletter

Mark Oxley, left, is greeted by Town manager Simon Weaver upon his arrival for the first day of pre-season training.

"We started chatting to Belly about the goalkeeping situation and what was going to happen this summer all the way back in May,” Weaver told the Harrogate Advertiser.

“We explained to him that we were looking for a goalkeeper with more EFL experience to come in and be our number one.

“As a management team we looked at everything and we felt we conceded too many goals last season. We’re looking to evolve and improve our squad in all areas – we’ve signed two strikers when we already had three on the books, for example.

"We are continuously aiming to improve and grow as we strive to establish ourselves as an EFL club and it's the job of us as staff to make these kind of decisions.

“There was no fall-out, there's no animosity and we didn’t say that the door was closed for James. But, he said that he didn’t want to be a number two because he’s got used to and enjoys playing regularly, and I understand where he’s coming from.”

Belshaw has made 184 appearances since joining Harrogate from Tamworth four years ago, keeping 58 clean-sheets and chipping in with no fewer than five assists.

He helped the club to promotion from National League North during his first season in North Yorkshire, then repeated the feat in August 2020 as a first-ever promotion to the Football League was secured.