“He goes about his business, and raises the level in training just because of his desire to improve. He’s a joy to work with from a coaching and a management point of view. He just wants to get better all the time.” - Michael O’Neill, April 2010
JAMES CHAMBERS HAS never been one to rest on his laurels.
The Dubliner began his League of Ireland career with Shelbourne as a fresh-faced 18-year-old, where he looked up to the likes of Wes Hoolahan and Alan Moore, but was soon farmed out on loan to Waterford United in order to gain first team experience.
When he returned to Tolka Park in 2007, the landscape had changed beyond recognition. Sure they had just won the Premier Division title for the thirteenth time but due to the financial meltdown under the late Ollie Byrne, manager Pat Fenlon was followed out the door by all but two of the squad.
With Dermot Keely taking charge that season, he decided to stick around and became one of their most influential players – making 36 appearances and chipping in with seven goals from midfield as they finished mid-table in the First Division.
After a second campaign, Chambers found regular Premier Division football at Drogheda United. Joining Walsall had looked an option but while they searched for a new manager, he had a two-week spell with Blue Square Conference North side Solihull Moors to keep him ticking over.
When new Saddlers boss Chris Hutchings was appointed and made it clear he wasn’t interested however, a deal with the Drogs was agreed and again he cemented himself as one of the first names on the team-sheet.
In 2010, Shamrock Rovers came calling and Chambers didn’t need much persuading to sign for a club who were certain to challenge for the title.
At the time, even he could not have imagined enjoying such a momentous season. A first league title in 16 years was accompanied by the historic Europa League games against Serie giants Juventus as the Baldoyle native was an ever-present in the middle of the park and scored 10 goals.
I loved my year there,” he recalled. “I’ve got nothing but fond memories of that period. I just decided that the time was right to give it a go in the SPL.”
A switch to Hamilton was finalised in January 2011 but things went sour pretty quickly. The Accies were relegated from the top tier and Chambers returned to the Airticity League with St Patrick’s Athletic last December.
“I learned an awful lot about myself and about the fact that things aren’t always rosy in football,” says Chambers,who has since admitted regretting the decision. “The football club wasn’t run properly as there were too many people with too much to say.”
Chambers muscles Juventus midfielder Momo Sissoko off the ball during the Europa League qualifier in Modena in 2010. Credit: INPHO/Andrea Staccioli
His career in Inchicore has started reasonably well. Two wins, three draws and still unbeaten in the league, Liam Buckley’s new recruits have been impressive at times during the opening month’s action.
On this week’s Monday Night Soccer, however, much was made about a perceived ‘lack of ambition’ which has been present at Pat’s in recent years, according to the panel, who suggested that just finishing in the European spots might be acceptable in the club’s eyes.
“I didn’t see the programme myself and can only speak for this season,” said Chambers when asked whether that was the case.
“I think we’re looking to play as well as we can as a team. The ability about the squad is frightening and I don’t think we’ll be just settling for anything.”
On their current form, he is confident that an improvement will be witnessed in the coming months when the players become more familiar with one another and is expecting more from himself on an individual level.
“It’s been a bit up and down. We’ve had some good performance but there have been some bad ones too to be fair. But it is going to take time for the new players to gel.
“Personally, I’m really enjoying it. Fitting into the team has been easy because it is full of footballers who want to play the game the right way.
But I haven’t started the season how I would have liked. I’m just trying to find some form at the moment. I don’t think I’ve shown Liam and the fans my full potential yet.”
Tonight’s fixture sees the Saints welcome his former side and league leaders Rovers to Richmond Park and Chambers, who remains friends with a number of their stars, is upbeat about the possibility of handing the Hoops a first defeat of the 2012 campaign.
“We set ourselves a benchmark last week against Shels and just want to continue that way this week. If we apply ourselves like we know we can, there’s no reason why we can’t take points off them.”