James Richards leaves Bideford for footballing adventure in Australia
FROM a freezing February in North Devon to the warmth of the Australian summer.
James Richards will notice a change in climate when he starts a new footballing adventure this week.
After 18 months with Bideford, the defender is leaving on Saturday to live for a year Down Under.
With a two-week trial lined up for Brisbane Wolves, the 20-year-old is hoping to make his mark in the Brisbane Premier League – the second tier in Australia.
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"I've thought about making a fresh start with football and I can't wait to get out there," said Richards.
The former Swindon Town trainee will aim to make a similar impression to the one he made at Bideford as a roving right back last season. Arriving with precious little experience in men's football, he played his part in a remarkable campaign as Bideford won the Evo-Stik League Southern first division south and west title.
"I think it was their best season ever and it was good to be a part of that," said Richards.
"I think the main thing that got us the league was the bond between the players.
"Technically, there were teams that were better than us, but it was our sheer desire to win."
Richards, a former amateur boxer, showed that with his energetic displays, putting the disappointment of leaving the professional game behind him.
"I came out of a two-year apprenticeship with Swindon Town," he said."It was tough because I was told I was going to get a pro (contract) a few weeks before.
"They just sat me down and said, 'No, we are not going to give you a contract'.I couldn't really believe it at the time.
"I went to Weston-super-Mare and they wanted to put me out on loan at Bideford. They put me in contact with Sean Joyce (the manager) and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to stay."
Richards made his debut in a 2-1 win over Bishop's Cleeve in August 2010.
Opportunities have been limited this season by the form of Ian Sampson but he will always cherish his last start for Bideford – the 7-1 win at Chippenham Town.
"Ian Sampson has played well and it's been quite hard to get back in but I have still enjoyed it," he said.
"I don't think I have really kicked on with my football, that's why I have made the decision to leave."
Richards has been part of a strong contingent of Exeter-based players in the squad.
"I have played with Jack Furzer and Connor Clifford since I was eight and I had known Matty Bye before I played with him at Bideford," he said.
Richards said goodbye to his team-mates on Saturday but was not part of the squad who drew 0-0 with St Neots Town.
He is hoping to find work in Australia and has a 12-month working holiday visa.