LIFE as a goalkeeper can often be a struggle. The pressure that comes with the position is unlike any other, with you knowing that one slip up can cost you a place in the team for months on end.

New Bradford (Park Avenue) stopper Dan Atkinson has found it hard to stamp down a regular spot at the clubs he has represented.

“You have always got to be on it and you can’t afford to make mistakes,” he said. “As you get older, you get used to that pressure and you don’t think about it as much.”

The 24-year-old’s experience is second to none. He worked his way through the ranks at Leeds United for over 10 years, and even earned himself a spot at Under-16 and Under-17 level for England.

He looks back on that spell at Elland Road with fondness, but does have one regret.

“I loved it being at Leeds,” Atkinson said. “I had some good times.

“But there were opportunities to go on loan to different clubs. If I had my time again, I would have gone out on loan and gained some experience early.”

The keeper will never forget his time representing his country though, playing alongside the likes of Spurs duo Dele Alli and Harry Winks, and Liverpool centre half Joe Gomez.

He also came up against some top opposition, most notably a German striker who is currently being linked to one of the best clubs in the country.

“It was brilliant,” he said. “I always look back and have very fond memories of my England days.

“It was great to play with those sorts of players. It is nice to see a lot of them go on to be successful with their clubs.

“I made my debut against Japan. I played Portugal a couple of times, Italy and Germany.

“One game we came up against Timo Werner. He is in the news at the moment being linked with Liverpool.”

But who stood out to him the most?

“Ruben Loftus Cheek. He dominated at every age, even on the international stage, so it was a pleasure playing with him. He had the size, stature and football skills. He was the whole package.”

When Leeds let Atkinson go in 2015, current Avenue managerial pair Mark Bower and Danny Boshell quickly snapped him up for then-National League side Guiseley.

Despite originally coming in as a number two, Atkinson got his first team bow when a future Bradford keeper fell ill.

He said: “It was a blessing in disguise (getting released by Leeds). I was excited to get out there and play some professional football in a proper league and get that experience.

“I got a bit of luck. (Steve) Drench went down with tonsillitis and that gave me a game. I played well and kept the shirt for a couple of months.”

Atkinson helped the Lions battle to safety, staying up by a point in the end, however the fairytale came to an abrupt end soon after.

He said: “The season after was a bit of a struggle. I was going to be Bower’s number one for that season.

“He got the sack after five matches and a new manager came in and brought his own goalkeeper and that was me done for the season. It is difficult at times when things change so quickly.”

A couple of years out of the game followed, but now Atkinson is back and more determined than ever to become a regular for a semi-professional outfit.

He said: “I have been coaching the academy keepers at Leeds, which has been a brilliant experience. I joined in with a few sessions there to keep sharp with their group of young players and I can’t wait to get back to it.

“You find jobs and your life goes in a different direction. But I always felt there was another step for me in football.

“I think I stepped down from Guiseley before I should have. It gave me the hunger back, which is good.”

Speaking about why he decided to join Bradford, Atkinson said: “I sent Bower a good luck message when he signed back up at Avenue. I absolutely loved playing under him at Guiseley.

“There are not many people I would have come back to play for but Bows was definitely one. It was a big part of me coming to play again.

“I am looking forward to playing in a good standard league against some good players and hopefully I can help the boys out.”