League One Aussie's green and gold dream

EXCLUSIVE: James Meredith has experienced the rollercoaster of English football for the best part of a decade but the Bradford City defender is now on a steep curve upwards and eyeing a spot in the Championship and Socceroos.

The Wembley veteran - who has already played at the spiritual home of English football four times in his burgeoning career - is making waves in League One and even attracting the attention of Ange Postecoglou.

Meredith signed with the Bantams in June 2012 after working his way up from the lower leagues and helped the Yorkshire club get promoted from League Two last season as well as reach the League Cup final.

Now currently eighth in League One, just two points off the playoff places, the left back is targeting back-to-back promotions.

“We’ve had a good 18 months so far,” Meredith said.

“We had the League Cup final last season, obviously we got smashed in the final, but it was a good achievement to get there for a League Two club, and then we got promoted through the playoffs as well. Last season was a good season for us.

“I think a lot of teams expected us to be towards the bottom (of League One this season) but we’re a good team.

“We’ve got some good players and I knew myself when we made that step up teams we were playing against, better teams and in bigger occasions with better facilities, that the team would just step up to the plate and do well.

“The aim is to get in those playoffs and in that top six and try and get promoted. I think we’re good enough to do that. I think the big teams like Wolves and potentially like Leyton Orient will go up automatically.”

Meredith has enjoyed a successful 18 months at Valley Parade, helping Bradford City famously defeat Arsenal and Aston Villa on the road to a clash at Wembley with Swansea City in the League Cup final.

The Bantams went down 5-0 in the final but secured promotion and so far Meredith has played in more than 60 games for the club.

“I’ve played in pretty much every game this season except for the cup games, all at left back,” he said.

“I did as well last season except for a period when I had glandular fever. I was out for about three months. Last season was just awesome for everyone but for me as well it was fantastic to be promoted again.”

Bradford City beat Arsenal on penalties in the Cup in a match Meredith remembers fondly.

“They also played a full-strength team that night,” he said. “We nearly beat them in normal time - they scored in the last minute of extra time.

“When we got in the change room everyone was saying did we just do that? We couldn’t really believe it. It was a really big occasion and I think we made all the Bradford fans really proud that day.”

After growing up in Melbourne, Meredith originally moved to Derby County as a youngster in 2004. He signed a professional contract with the Rams in 2006 but left without making a senior appearance after loan spells with Cambridge United, Chesterfield and a short stay with Irish club Sligo Rovers.

“I was at Derby and that year where I turned professional, I won academy player of the year, I was doing really well and Billy Davies signed as the manager and brought in a whole new team and that was a setback for me,” Meredith said.

“I really didn’t play any football for two years, so I was massively out of favour. I was thinking about coming back to Australia and giving up on the dream in England, then I got a call from a Conference North club Telford and since then I’ve slowly built my way up. Hopefully next season I’ll go up again and it will be Championship.”

Meredith almost signed for Melbourne Victory in 2008, where he would have played alongside close mate Leigh Broxham, but decided to take a chance and stay in England with AFC Telford United.

“I thought it’s Conference North but I might as well give it one last blast because you can come back to Australia at any time, it’s your home, you’ll always be welcome back home,” he said.

“Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d gone down that route.”

Meredith moved to Conference Premier side York City in 2009, helping them reach the playoff final at Wembley in 2010, and won the 2012 FA Trophy with the club in 2012.

He also helped York City get promoted to the Football League at the end of the 2011-2012 season before signing for Bradford City.

Meredith was targeted by Championship clubs Watford and Burnley but decided to head to League Two with the Bantams.

“After that two years at Derby the first question I ask when I sign for a football club is am I going to play,” he explains.

“And those clubs couldn’t promise me regular football. There was quite a few and there was a few clubs that actually offered me more money than Bradford, in League One as well.

“Bradford just seemed to be the best option. Bradford was a sleeping giant and they were the ones that showed the interest in me.

“Phil Parkinson really wanted to sign me. It’s better than signing for a big club and then being a squad player and you’re in the exact same position I was in when I was 18.

“My aim is to get at least 45 plus games a season and only good things can come from that.”

Meredith’s gamble has paid off, adding another successful appearance at Wembley last May, and the ambitious 25-year old wants more.

“I’ve been there six times but I’ve played there four times,” he said.

“I love it, it’s fantastic. It’s the best pitch, it’s a great atmosphere. There’s nothing like playing at Wembley, you can’t beat playing at Wembley.

“The eventual goal is to play in the Premiership. That would be something really special for me especially having that setback and having to work my way from the Conference North to the Conference, getting promoted and then getting promoted from League Two and then hopefully who knows where. I’m just looking upwards from here.”

A marauding fullback with pace who likes to get forward and can tackle, Meredith is winning fans both at home and abroad.

The defender has been informed by Football Federation Australia that they are watching his progress and he would love nothing more than wearing the green and gold.

“I’ve had contact to say they’ve been watching me,” Meredith said.

“My agent spoke to them just after Ange got the job. Left back seems to be a problem position for the Socceroos. That’s one of my big targets. I’d love to be part of that squad, to be amongst it. That’s a big thing on my list.”