SCOTT Flinders is set to move on from Hartlepool United this summer – but the goalkeeper appreciates the improvement he has made at Victoria Park.
With one year remaining on his current deal at Pools and his talent deserving of a higher stage than League Two, the 26-year-old has been linked with several clubs in recent weeks.
But Flinders – the runaway winner for Player of the Year – is quick to attribute his development to the dedication of the club’s goalkeeping coaches.
Since signing from Crystal Palace in 2009, the Rotherham-born custodian has worked under both Gary Walsh and Andy Collett.
And Flinders believes he is unrecognisable from the rookie who arrived four years ago.
“My overall game has improved so much in my time here, I couldn’t be happier with how much I’ve come on,” he told SportMail.
“Especially in the past 18 months I feel I have come on leaps and bounds.
“And credit for that must go to Andy Collett - he has improved my game massively.
“But it was Gary Walsh who started that improvement.
“When I came to Hartlepool I’d had three years at Palace where I had gone stale.
“Walshy got me back on the right road and was like a father-figure, he was brilliant to work with.
“Andy has come in and I’ve kicked on again.
“He’s been terrific for me and I think that has shown on the pitch.”
But Flinders also believes a new approach away from football has aided his performance on the park.
“I’m a more relaxed person now, having a young child helps with that,” added Flinders, whose son, Jacob, recently turned two.
“I was too focused on football before that, I was probably too intense.
“It can become a little bit too much and you think about things more than perhaps is necessary.
“Family comes first for me now and football second.
“That takes a bit of pressure off and I think that has shown this year.”
Flinders will tie the knot this summer, marrying long-term girlfriend Kate.
And, while he could well be headed for pastures new, he is nonetheless looking forward to a break from the game.
“It will be nice to switch off for a couple of months,” he said.
“It has been a mentally tiring season.
“I think Kate is looking forward to a football-free summer as well to be honest.”