SHORTWOOD midfield star James Baldwin has signed a two-year professional deal with ambitious Swedish side Ostersunds FK.
The Cardiff-based 24-year-old plays his final game on Saturday for Southern League Shortwood United at home to Stratford Town on Saturday before jetting-off to kick-start his career with the Scandinavian second- tier outfit in January.
Baldwin’s dream move came after he represented the Great Britain Students side in the summer, that achieved a second successive World University Games silver medal under head coach James Ellis and former Cheltenham Town and Forest Green striker Steve Guinan.
Baldwin said: “The move came about when James Ellis got in touch and asked if I would be interested in playing professionally abroad.
“He had just got back from Ostersund, where their boss Graham Potter had been asking about me.
“I met Graham in London and we spoke about the club’s vision and where I would fit in to that .”
Baldwin tasted national exposure during Shortwood’s epic FA Cup journey and the former Forest Green player is now hoping to conquer Europe with his new side.
He added: “The club are looking to play in the Europa league within the next two years, so the prospect of playing for a team with such ambition is something that really appealed to me and it could only have been something like this that could have dragged me away from my beloved Shortwood.”
Baldwin, who shares a flat with Shortwood striker Duncan Culley, insists more players from the Meadowbank side are set for a higher stage.
“It’s also testament to the all- round quality of Shortwood players and management that Joe Parker has signed for League Two outfit Newport and Adam Mann is on trial with Skrill Premier Kidderminster Harriers.”
Baldwin feels his time at Hartpury College was pivotal in his football development.
“My development has come mainly through the coaching at Hartpury and my best experiences in football have come through my time at Hartpury.”
He will be welcomed by current Ostersunds FK star Thomas Boakye, a former college pal, who previously played for Forest Green and was a one-time Manchester City trialist.
“It will be good to see Thomas and the other Ghanaian lads from Hartpury- Sam Mensah has just moved to a Swedish Premier team and David Accam has moved to Helsingborg and Issac Shaze is a free agent."
Co-Shortwood boss John Evans insists his move to Scandinavia is richly deserved.
Evans said: “James has been an absolute pleasure to work with, always exceptionally fit, keen to learn and able to play equally effectively in a variety of positions.
“Another important factor is how well he fitted in with team- mates and I know how much he appreciated the work all our club people put in to help the players achieve their full potential.
“James was particularly outstanding in our great FA Cup run this season. He was as fit if not fitter than any of our full- time opponents of Port Vale and Aldershot.
"I also think that he is still developing his skills and the last two games against Bridgwater and Wimborne has seen him leave the club on a very high level of performance."
Team-mate Culley, who Baldwin works for at his Cardiff restaurant, feels his employee is destined for success.
Culley said: “This is massively deserved. His dedication, work- rate, adaptability and personality were always going to lead him on to bigger things.”