JAMES Trafford says he learned some valuable lessons on loan at Wanderers.

After 18 months on loan from Manchester City, the goalkeeper has enhanced his reputation to the extent he signed a new five-year deal with his parent club, gained England Under-21 honours and now has a string of clubs interested in signing him next season.

Whilst at Bolton he became the first keeper ever to keep a clean sheet in his first four starts, and this season managed a club record 26 clean sheets in all competitions.

Trafford looks back on last January’s decision to end a loan with Accrington – where he had twice dropped out of the team – to pursue a deal with the Whites.

“Coming to Bolton I appreciated how important it was to be number one,” he said. “Every day you have to be at full tilt and do as much as you can to stay in the team.

“Looking back I was thankful for what happened at Accy. Growing up through the academy there are a lot of people who want you to succeed – but then going out on loan they don’t know you as a person, they are not ‘Team Traff’ or too bothered. They don’t help you out too much and it helped me grow up massively.”

Trafford was in his teens when he arrived at Bolton but feels he quickly matured to become an important member of the dressing room in League One.

Speaking on the Goalkeepers’ Union podcast about his time at Wanderers, he said: "I really enjoyed it, to be fair.

"I've grown up and developed as a person massively, but it's what I expected at this age because you grow a lot.

"I've enjoyed all the different aspects in the team that I've been - coming in as an unproved goalie and people not really fancying us.

"When I finished as a second-year (scholar) at City, I went on loan to Accrington and, looking back, ideally it probably wasn't the best choice to have gone to, but I made that decision and it happened. Looking back, I'm really thankful for it to have happened.

"I left there, went to Bolton and enjoyed the second-half of the season, playing well and establishing myself.

"Then, now, I viewed myself as one of the main characters and for a loan player, I feel like that's quite good because I feel I was one of the main people and leaders of the team. I've grown massively.

"It's how I am. I'm quite loud and out there in the changing room.

"I've done a lot of good stuff so far in my career. Everyone respects and listens to me."

Things went so well at Wanderers that Trafford can now take a different view on how his Accrington experience unfolded. After losing his place in the team on two occasions, he learned more about his own attitude.

“In the moment, I didn’t enjoy the whole Accy experience but looking back on it I am quite grateful it happened, to have experienced that extreme,” he said.

“A lot of people said Accrington was quite old fashioned before I went but I didn’t anticipate what it was actually like. I should have done more research and asked more questions.

“It was very different, coming from City where I had been around the first team. So I went from one end of the spectrum to the other.

“I’d played the first nine games and then got taken out of the team, and I can totally understand why. When I came out the first time I was like ‘I’m going to work harder and get myself back in’. I didn’t think it would be long and I was quite motivated at that stage.

“I got put in for two more and then taken out again. After that, it was completely different and I was very negative. I just wanted January to come around so I could move on.

“It probably wasn’t the right attitude but everything happens for a reason, I guess.”

The move to Wanderers was not without its issues. After Joel Dixon’s loss of form in the first half of the season the club was looking for stability in goal. City’s untested keeper was not everyone’s idea of a perfect replacement but Trafford quickly won over his doubters.

The reaction, however, took the youngster by surprise.

“I was young and Accrington didn’t have the biggest social media audience but I didn’t realise how big Bolton was until I’d signed for them. I’d always driven past the stadium but I had never been in it.

“The only experience I’d had of the Bolton fans was when they played Accrington at Accrington, and they sold out the away end. That gave me an indication.

“But when the rumours I was signing were coming out I looked at my Twitter and was thinking ‘what have I done to deserve this?’ “I understand where they were coming from, I think the club was 18th at the time and going for a new goalie, and I think I was 19 and had conceded about 1,000 goals at Accrington.

“I just knocked off my Twitter. I wasn’t going to see anything good and people weren’t going to say anything nice. I did well on the Saturday and after that I was the best thing since sliced bread.

“Fans are reactionary and bad news gets more clicks than good news. You have to learn it.”

Of all the memories Trafford will take from his stay at Bolton, the Papa Johns Trophy win against Plymouth Argyle in April will be his most treasured.

He remembers speaking with fellow loanee Conor Bradley before the game and why that particular Wembley experience can now help him, wherever his career takes him next.

“I was speaking to Conor before the game,” he said. “He grew up in Northern Ireland he didn’t see Wembley with the same importance as I do, growing up in England. It is where the big games get played and some people never play there in their whole career.

“I was there twice with City but I just did the warm-ups and then that was me. I was never on the bench or playing.

“It was a really big experience and one I take a lot of learning from.

“I never get nervous. I have butterflies but don’t get panicky because I tell myself ‘I played at the Stadium of Light when I was 18 and had a whole stadium boo me.’ “Now I can say I played at Wembley aged 20 and nothing else will compare to that.

“Before the game me and Conor were talking about now nervous we were – from like a pre-season friendly to borderline not wanting to go out there, and we were both in the middle.

“But we felt calmer than if it was a league game – it was no nice, the pitch was perfect, there was no wind, perfect conditions. And I think a lot of the team felt the same way and why we played so well.”