Former Sunderland and Brighton and Hove Albion player praises Bognor Regis Town for part they played in kick-starting his career

Crawley Town defender Joel Lynch has praised Bognor Regis Town for the part they played in kick-starting his professional career.

The 34-year-old defender, who has just signed a new 18-month contract at Crawley Town, grew up in Eastbourne and was signed by Brighton's youth academy in 2003.

He was loaned to the Rocks and made his debut at Nyewood Lane on August 13 2005 in a 2-0 defeat at home to Yeading in Conference South.

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He played in the first fourteen games of that season, 12 in the league and both FA Cup ties against Basingstoke. He then played one further match, making 15 in total, on Boxing Day 2005, a 1-0 defeat at home to Havant & Waterlooville.

Joel Lynch playing for Brighton in 2007

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He was on loan at the same time as former Albion, Bournemouth and Aston Villa player Tommy Elphick. While at Brighton, Lynch also played with former Red Dean Cox and current Hastings United manager Gary Elphick.

And Lynch, who also played for Nottingham Forest, QPR and Huddersfield Town in his career, believes that experience helped mould him as a player and recommends all youngsters at professional clubs get that experience.

He said: "When I was at Brighton they loaned me out to Bognor Regis Town and that was massive for me. It’s massive for young lads at the minute to get that experience. I was only 15 or 16 maybe and I was playing men's football and I kicked on and went straight into the first team form there."

"Youngsters should get that experience, especially the way the game is now.

"At Crawley we have a lot of young lads in the squad and they are there waiting, desperate to get into the first. But sometimes the timing is not right and for us not having a 23s and a league they can play in, they can’t get games, it’s tough for them.

"I would advise any youngsters lucky to have a contract at a professional club they need to play games to get out and get experience and get used to the men's game.

"The 23s game is completely different to the men's game - for example the game we played against Tottenham u23s last week was completely different to a League Two game.

"To get that experience is vital."