Jimmy Ryan describes his time at Accrington Stanley as some of the best years of his life.
Jimmy, now 27, spent three years at Stanley from 2008-11 and left after the League Two play-off disappointment to Stevenage.
The midfielder has made the Stanley Football League Dream Team as the Reds celebrate 10 years back in the Football League this season.
After moving onto Scunthorpe, Chesterfield and now Fleetwood, he looks back at his years in Accrington as special ones.
“It was just a really good time in my life,” said Jimmy, who arrived at the Reds from Shrewsbury after coming through the ranks at Liverpool.
“I enjoyed going to work, I was with my mates, it was a good laugh but we worked hard as well.
“I was young, I was carefree, we were young lads, great mates and we loved playing together. As you get older, you have bills to pay, life is more serious and, while I still have a laugh and love playing football, I am not as carefree.
“Although I started at Liverpool, Accrington is the club where I really learnt my trade. It’s a club close to my heart and it’s great to be remembered as a valuable player, as the club means the same to me.”
Jimmy stood out as a superb player during his three years at Stanley and he said it was thanks to John Coleman and Jimmy Bell and the confidence they gave him.
“It didn’t work out at Shrewsbury and then I came to Accrington,” said Jimmy. “At the time, I just wanted to play football and get some games under my belt and get into the first team. When I arrived I had no idea if I would do that so it’s great for me to have made such am impression with the fans.
“I loved it as there were lads there I had grown up with at Liverpool, I had known them since I was a baby, such as Ray Putterill, Craig Lindfield, Sean McConville and Charlie Barnett.
“It was a massive stepping stone for me as John and Jimmy just told me to go out and express myself.
“There were three of us in midfield and we were basically told to attack and score goals, which is what every forward player wants to hear.
“I wasn’t tied down to one position, I had a free role with no responsibility except to go forward so it was great fun.”
Jimmy scored 10 goals in the 2010/11 season where the Reds reached the play-offs and he admitted it was tough when the team broke up.
“We had nearly gone into the play-offs the season before but then we blew up in the last 10 games. We were confident we could get there the following season and then we just didn’t show up for the Stevenage games which, I will be honest, still hurts now. It is still painful to me.
“It would have been great if we could have stayed together and seen what we could have achieved the season after but clubs came in for players, football is a short career and you have to take your chances.
“I was sorry to leave, I have a lot of friends at Accrington and still love going back to the familiar faces.
“I was at Accrington three years but it felt a lot longer because it was such a good time.
“Looking back, the Stevenage games stand out for the wrong reasons while the Gillingham 7-4 win in October 2010 is one that springs to mind for the right reasons. I scored a cracker in that and it was my first goal of the season so that sticks out.”