A Valuable Non-League Experience
As football celebrates non-league day, Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has recalled his own experiences at that level.
Pickford, 23, is now one of the games most expensive keepers but when he was starting out at Sunderland the England international had loans at Darlington and Alfreton Town.
These temporary spells came in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, respectively.
All Pickford wanted to do at that stage was play football and there couldn't have been a better level for the shot-stopper to learn his trade and gain experience he could carry forward for the remainder of his career.
'It was just the chance to play men's football. I learned quite a lot getting battered by fully-grown blokes! You would come for crosses and catch an elbow in the face. But that's what you want,' Official Website.
Adding: 'When you are that young, you want that experience. You see lads literally playing for their livelihoods or paying for their mortgages and stuff. It was great to go and learn your trade in that environment.'
He went on to mention a particular incident when he just 'laughed off' a comment made to him from the stands that got a little personal but nothing 'really affects' him, so that helped Pickford then and has going forward.
Pickford said: 'You were always going to get the daft comments from someone in the stands behind you. I remember playing for Darlington at Southport and this fella said some unkind things about mu grandad! I just laughed it off and got on with the game. That's the kind of lad I am - nothing really affects me!'