GOALKEEPER Scott Loach has confirmed he is unlikely to return to York City next season, but he believes the club will be in safe hands at Wembley and during 2017/18.
The former England under-21 international played the last nine games of the Minstermen’s National League campaign, after joining on loan from Notts County, but was always going to be ruled out for Sunday’s FA Trophy final, having arrived after the two-legged last-four victory over Lincoln.
Kyle Letheren, who played every minute during City’s run in the competition, will be recalled between the sticks for the showcase clash against Macclesfield, having failed to win back his place from Loach after recovering from injury.
The latter is now a free agent following his release by the Magpies but, while revealing he would have had no hesitation in committing his future to the Minstermen had the club stayed in the National League, he does not want to drop to the sixth tier of the English game.
On his future, Loach confessed: “At this moment, I have no idea where I will be next season. If we had stayed up, I would have signed straight after the final whistle.
“I have no doubt that the club will bounce back and I would like to return one day but, without wanting to sound selfish, I have to look after my own career and don’t feel it’s the time to drop down to that level. At 28, I want to kick on and play regularly at a level I feel I can do.”
Despite being City’s first choice in goal for the final five weeks of the campaign, Loach always knew he would be handing back the gloves for Wembley and feels that would have only been right – even if he had been eligible to feature.
“It will be a great day for Kyle and he’s played every minute to get the team there, so it would have been unfair for me just to play in the final after the graft the lads had put in to reach it,” the former Watford shot-stopper explained.
“It was tough to walk away from the club, though, let alone Wembley and I’m not just saying that. "There was something about the club that I had a connection with from day one.
“I soon felt like I’d been there the whole season, whether that was down to the gaffer’s belief in me or the players and fans taking to me straight away.”
Ex-Blackpool and Dundee net-minder Letheren is out of contract at Bootham Crescent this summer, while Luke Simpson is still on the books for 2017/18 and Loach, who trained with Joe Hart in the Three Lions set-up, believes either keeper would be a good option for the club next term.
“Kyle is a good experienced keeper who was a bit disappointed when I came in and he had every right to be because, by all accounts, he had done well before I arrived,” Loach pointed out.
“I was very impressed with Luke Simpson as well and, if he can get a full season of games behind him, he will have a really bright future. I couldn’t believe how good he was in training and I would watch how he conducts himself for a young lad and think wow.
“I believe attitude is a massive thing in goalkeepers and both the lads at York have that right. Kyle looks after himself and is very driven and professional.
“Luke might also have expected to play before I came in after Kyle had got injured and could have been bitter, but he wanted to be around me and learn and I also picked stuff up from him.”
With his wife expecting their second child, Loach is unable to make Sunday’s match but is anticipating a good game, having played in City’s 3-1 victory at Moss Rose in March.
Offering his thoughts on the contest, the ex-Championship campaigner said: “I think Wembley might suit them the way they try and play out from the back, but York have nothing to be afraid of.
“They have beaten them twice this season and I think, if the gaffer had been here with that squad in September, it would have finished in the play-offs. There’s nothing to lose now the club have been relegated, so it’s just a case of let’s go out and win the trophy.
“Macclesfield have a great football side, but York’s power, presence and strength in depth could prove the difference.”
Loach is hoping the passing of time will also have healed his team-mates’ relegation wounds – a process that he has found difficult himself following the stoppage-time Guiseley equaliser that sent the club down when they were unable to force a late goal of their own during the 2-2 final-day home draw with Forest Green.
“It took a good few days to sink in and it was borderline heart-breaking because I had bonded very quickly with the club and lads,” Loach admitted. “It’s still hard to put into words, because I’ve never felt like that and I suppose the best way to describe it is flat and empty.”
Loach was even thrown up for two late set-pieces as City sought late salvation and he added: “My friends will all tell you that I fancy myself as a striker in five-a-side but, really, you’re just trying to distract people and it’s all-or-nothing time.
“You’re not trying to be a hero and the ball can drop to anybody, but credit to Forest Green. They defended really well and made it hard for us.”
The eerie silence at the final whistle is an experience, meanwhile, that Loach will never forget.
“I told my dad that I couldn’t believe the support at the club because, in the situation we were in, fans can give up sometimes and get frustrated,” he added. “But the numbers we were taking away was great and that meant we were used to lots of noise so, when you could hear a pin drop at the end of that last game, it was really strange.”