Q1 - James, you established yourself as a fan favourite in your time at Carrick Rangers. How did the move to Taylor’s Avenue come about? Where did you start your career as a young player
I had been contacted by a guy who had noticed me playing for Rathfriland and he knew Stephen Small so he passed my details on. I had a couple of options at the time but I was really impressed with what Stevie had to say, I really got on well with him from the first meeting. I was also at university in Jordanstown at the time so the travel complimented my studies.
I started playing through the youth teams at my home club Rathfriland before having short spells at Newry and Portadown. I loved my time at Rathfriland, and found it hard to leave, but always wanted to see if I could play at a higher level. Carrick was the perfect next step for me at that time.
Q2 - You had initially found opportunities limited in the 08/09 season before going on to score 22 goals in the first half of the season which led to you earning a move to Glenavon. What did you put that run of form down to and was it a difficult decision to leave the club, mid-way through the season?
When I first signed for Carrick I had a few chats with Stevie and he wanted to try me as a right winger. I came as a striker but was struggling to adapt and Stevie saw that. I learned so much in the first season under Stevie and Stitty, they were so good to me in showing me the game was not all about having pace (which I had back then). I was also learning off the quality players in the team at the time and those lads were brilliant to work with.
The second season was a different story in that I was back up front and started doing exactly what Stevie and Stitty told me to do, stop running about everywhere else and stay around the box. I remember Stevie trying to explain to me several times how to show 'body shape' to my midfielders so they would know where to put the ball and I hadn't a clue was he was on about!
Leaving was extremely tough, I really clicked with everyone at the club, I knew most of the fans by name, the players were like family and Stevie and Stitty were brilliant to work with. I owe a lot of my career to the foundations those men laid with working from me. At Carrick, I always played with a smile on my face and loved celebrating goals and wins and I think that's important to show, maybe it's lost a bit as you get older.
Q3 - One of your final appearances for Carrick was in the Steel and Sons Cup Final in which you scored the opening goal against Ards. Can you remember your emotions following the last gasp goal which saw Ards lift the trophy?
I can, clearly. Ricky Billing, a name I will never forget because of that goal he scored. The whole day was fantastic for the club and players. I had half of Rathfriland in the stands watching and when I saw my goal go in it was the best feeling I had in football up to that point. We had such a good team that year, I thought we were destined to win it. I remember for the final they gave us a new white kit to wear, with our names on the back, I still have it framed in my house.
After the game I was sunk on the pitch, devastated, and over came big David 'Bean' McIlwrath, who is now half the man he was then. Lets just say he was 'enjoying some beverages' and he heard I was potentially leaving and started asking me to promise him I wouldn't leave! He even followed me into the changing room and sat down beside me!
Q4 - You were only 22 when you left the club. Who were the players who had the most influence on your career at this stage?
I can honestly say there wasn't a bad lad in the changing room, they were all good honest lads. The half season before leaving I learned a lot from playing with the likes of Pedro Delgado, fantastic player, so under-rated. Gregg Shannon also took me under his wing and was a massive influence on my career, he looked after me without a doubt. The other player who deserves a mention was Glenn Teggart, fantastic player and an ever better lad. I'll never forget in my first season, he turned up at the end of pre-season and Mark Watson said to me "That's Glenn, the captain, he doesn't do pre-season, doesn't need to".
Q5 - You have played for a number of clubs in the top flight including Glenavon, Ballymena United and Dungannon Swifts. Which club did you enjoy playing in the most and were you ever close to a return to Taylor’s Avenue?
All of the clubs I played for were brilliant. Each has special memories for me at different times and I couldn't pick which I enjoyed most. I actually did flirt with a return a few years ago but starting a family and wanting to be closer to home stopped me.
Q6 - Across each of those clubs, you have played for some high profile managers. If you could only choose one to work under again, who would it be?
Glenn Ferguson, great manager and fellow striker. When Glenn came in, I couldn't wait to work with him, he brought the best out of me and I loved working with him. He taught me some of the darker arts of being a number 9 front man. Glenn was one of the best strikers the league has ever seen, I had so much respect for him.
Q7 - You are now playing in the Premier Intermediate League under Stuart King at Banbridge Town. At the age of 33, do you have any thoughts on how long you would like to continue playing?
Unfortunately age catches up with us all and when you go further into your 30's you have to start protecting your body more. I aim to keep going for a few years yet but injuries and form will dictate that. Stuarty is brilliant to work with, I played with him at Glenavon for a few seasons and absolutely love the changing room we have now at Banbridge.
Q8 - Do you feel that you will have an appetite to enter the world of management when your playing career comes to an end?
The Wife won't appreciate this answer but yes. I done my badges a few years ago in preparation for retiring some day. I've coached for many years at Rathfriland Youth and just get a good buzz of being involved with football. I think that will never leave me.
Q9 - What is the most memorable thing that you have ever had shouted at you from the terraces, during your career?
One that stands out was with Glenavon, away to Cliftonville, on the old grass pitch at Solitude. I was playing right wing. In the second half I ran towards the crowd to get a ball to take a throw-in and some lad roared at me "Costello, **** me, your Vicki (then girlfriend, now wife) loves ..." best not to repeat the end of that sentence. I was gobsmacked he knew her name - I blamed Bebo for that one.
Q10 - Who is the best player that you have ever come up against?
Tough one that. Two players spring to mind. First one was with Glenavon, I played in Gerard McMahons testimonial against St Johnstone and Jody Morris played for them, he was a class act.
Second was Keith Gilliespie, I was about 25 playing against him when he was mid 30's. He was still so sharp and tortured us that night.