Jay Lynch learnt the art of goalkeeping alongside Jussi Jaaskelainen at Bolton Wanderers – but it’s Non-League where he’s trying to perfect his craft.
The AFC Fylde keeper is considered one of the best stoppers outside of the Football League, a destination he’s determined to reach with the National League promotion chasers.
And the 25-year-old is glad he took the plunge to Step 4 with Salford City when he left Accrington Stanley in 2014.
“I just needed games,” Lynch told The NLP. “Every time I went to go on loan from Bolton, someone got injured. Whether it was Jaaskelainen and I was on the bench or third choice and had to travel. So I was in and around it, which was a great thing for a young lad, but I didn’t get the balance of getting games myself.
“There was never a right time and before I knew it my contract was up and I had to go. It was a shock because you go from a nice training ground at Bolton to Accrington. No disrespect to Accrington but it’s not Bolton.
“Then you go from that to Salford which was getting changed in portacabins. Luckily I’m from Salford so I knew what to expect myself. For some that’s a massive shock but I just thought, ‘Roll your sleeves up and get on with it’.
“It was about starting again. When you’re down there you feel like you don’t want to be forgotten but with Salford’s vision and my game time, it suited us both.”
Lynch found the enjoyment of playing at the Ammies as he won two promotions and played a big part in their run to the second round of the FA Cup. The experience of what it’s like to play for a team pushing for, and winning, silverware was another plus for his education.
But in the summer of 2017, AFC Fylde came calling and the chance to step up another division was too much to refuse.
Like Salford, the Coasters are absolute in where see their footballing future.
“You see it on the shirts with 2022 the aim of being in the Football League,” Lynch said. “We had a good season but the play-off game (defeat to Boreham Wood at the first stage) was a disappointment. We let ourselves down if we’re honest.
“But I reckon if we get this year, we’ve got enough in the squad to go further or even finish higher in the table.”
Lynch says Dave Challinor’s side have learnt the importance of a ruthless streak as well as leaving themselves less exposed at the back.
Already the stopper has 14 clean sheets in the National League and there are rumours League clubs like Preston North End, Shrewsbury and Macclesfield are keeping tabs.
Perhaps his performances and the fact he’s in Non-League’s best keeper conversation also show the ‘too small’ tag he’s often been lumbered with has little foundation.
“You do get written off,” Lynch, who stands at 6ft, said. “I’m grateful to Salford and Fylde for letting me play and show what I can do to make people look past that.
“Back in the day, they had to be 6ft 5ins and fill the goal. But I think agility and timing gets overlooked.
“I’m not getting chipped every week! It’s never a factor. Ask any of the lads I play with and they say they don’t understand why people say about my height because it doesn’t affect it anyway.
“But it’s a challenge for me. People doubt me so it’s about proving them wrong and seeing where that takes me.”