Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and John Terry – some of the names Hartlepool United keeper Scott Loach was regularly rubbing shoulders with just eight years ago on the fringes of England’s golden generation.
These days, with the international career very much on ice, Loach is more than content to be a National League regular having found a place he can call home at the Super 6 Stadium.
By his own admission he’s made “mistakes” during a slide which saw him go from the nation’s next big goalkeeping hope with Premier League ambitions to a club-hopping, ‘have gloves will travel’ type in the lower reaches of the English game.
Rolling back the clock, the time was August, 2010. Paul Robinson had just hung up the gloves, David James was, well, still David James, and the next in line Ben Foster and Rob Green were in the treatment room.
Fabio Capello saw fit to contact then Watford boss Malky Mackay and call upon untested Championship goalie Loach, then just 22. That cap never did fall his way but plaudits, links to the top flight big boys and plenty of England youth honours certainly did.
Now at 30, life couldn’t be any different.
It’s more Luke James than James Milner and Peter Kioso over Peter Crouch – but Loach wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Since those days I have learned a lot,” said the Pools No 1.
“I feel I am a much better keeper now than I was back then. But I have made mistakes along the way. It has not been plain sailing.
“It was time to move on from Watford and things didn’t work out at Ipswich. Then I went to Rotherham when I should have taken a step back. I wanted to continue in the Championship, but at 24 I was naive.
“I then went to Bury and had the worst time of my life. I wasn’t good enough. I had three games and I made a mistake in all three. Sometimes this game can be cruel like that, especially for goalkeepers.
“When Notts County came in I thought they’d be the only chance I’d get to continue as a goalkeeper in the Football League and so close to home.
“That’s my journey and everyone is where they are for a reason. I am here because I deserve to be – that’s the same with the rest of the squad.
“I love it here at Hartlepool. It would be silly of me if I said I did not want to play higher. But when I look at the league above there aren’t really any teams I see that are bigger than Pools.”
Loach may well be content with life in the North East but he’s not got his feet up just yet.
The appointment of Ross Turnbull – a Champions League winner with Chelsea – to the coaching staff at Pools has breathed new life into Loach. So much so the keeper, who has spent recent seasons at the likes of York City, Yeovil Town and Peterborough, not only believes he could operate in League Two again – he hopes with Hartlepool next season – but even further up the Football League food chain.
“It’s fair to say I am going through a bit of a renaissance,” said Loach.
“I think I could go and play for Middlesbrough tomorrow – but it is about consistency.
“Any keeper can get thrown in and do a job short-term, adrenaline gets you through. But after five games fans and teammates are asking ‘right, what can you do now?’
“As a goalkeeper you need to do it for two or three years, not just six months.
“I believe in my ability. And I have my own target – I want to play 500 games.
“You can’t beat playing. I’m loving life at Pools and I want to stay for another two years.”