Joel Lynch opens up on his remarkable summer, Sunderland move and major ambitions on Wearside
Joel Lynch reaches on more than one occasion for the words to describe his emotions at being here, at Sunderland AFC, in September.
‘No-brainer’ is used more than once. ‘Ecstatic’, is another. ‘Amazing’, another.
He’s had some summer and to listen to it recounted is dizzying.
At 31, for the first time in his career, he was without a club. He had expected the option for another year at QPR to be taken up but was told, on the last day possible, that it wouldn’t.
Then came the chance for a trial at Sheffield United. Not just a Premier League side, but one where under Chris Wilder, being a centre-back is about as good a brief as you can get.
Realistically, though, it was going to be about cover for established players, and so when the chance came for a Championship move, with more minutes likely and a longer deal certain, it made total sense to explore that further.
It fell through and the chance to go to Bramall Lane was gone.
There were offers from abroad, plenty of them. The money looked very good but there were a whole host of red flags, too.
Lynch has a four-month old son and it wasn’t the time to be taking risks.
It was tough to handle, a proven campaigner with over 300 senior appearances under his belt. As Christmas approached last season, QPR were flying and Lynch was a big part of a team causing a number of upsets. A move even further up the pyramid did not seem fanciful.
“It’s been tough for me,” he says.
“At QPR I thought I was going to stay on but they lowered their wage budget and the way that they’re going about thing has completely changed.
“It was a situation where I had to leave and then the market itself has been tough.
“I think a lot of young players are being signed now, clubs are looking at future prospects and signings in different ways.
“I thought I’d get straight back in.. it was a weird time, being unemployed and wondering why there wasn’t that interest,” he adds.
“I was seeing every other day clubs taking younger lads from Premier League teams, and I think that’s the way it’s going. I think a lot of teams in the Championship have overspent in the past, so they’re going for loans and cheaper deals.
“I was on a good deal at the time with QPR, I was waiting and waiting, I had a few sort of offers and half offers but they weren’t really what I wanted, so I then decided to take up the challenge with Sunderland and sort of start again.
“When Sunderland came in it was just a no brainer, regardless of the drop down [to League One].
“I’m not concerned about money, it’s about being part of something that’s moving forward.
“I wanted a new challenge and I think this will work well for me.”
So there is relief to land a new club, without doubt, but the satisfaction is about far more than that.
The 31-year-old has dropped down a level but believes he has the chance to have something that has eluded him so far in his career. He has played consistently at a good level, and for some big clubs, too. Never, though, has he had a genuine tilt at promotion and the special memories that kind of journey can produce.
There were one or two pushes at Nottingham Forest, but before he had the chance to really establish himself in the side.
He thinks Sunderland is the biggest club he has played for and the potential is obvious.
“I think I’ve been in football long enough now to know, I’ve not really had that success, I’ve always sort of been in a mediocre side [at their level],” he says.
“I haven’t had much play-off experience or won things, and I’ve always wanted that.
“I thought the challenge here would be good for that.
“I’ve always thought about the best deal and stuff like that, but for me now it’s about being part of something and having that feeling back again.
“My career hasn’t always been what I wanted, I’ve wanted that success so badly and being part of Sunderland, a team that should be winning or is winning, that’s what I wanted to be part of.”
Lynch has been given no assurances about his place in the side and did not ask for any.
That challenging summer left him short of time on the pitch and he has begun to correct that in the last couple of weeks.
The work on his conditioning while waiting for a chance was extensive, and so he is confident he can make an impression when required.
Expectations on Wearside are high this season but Lynch could not be more effusive in his praise for the environment he has joined.
“They’re top players here,” he says.
“I’m not expecting just to walk in and play because I’ve played games in the Championship the last few years, I know what it takes to play for Sunderland.
“The competition in my position is good, Alim, Jordan and Tom Flanagan are good players and I’m going to have to be at by absolute best to get in the team, I understand it.
“The first aim is to get as fit as I can and then hopefully be part of the team.
“I was stuck in my hotel room so I asked for clips and stuff, and I’ve watched the previous games,” he adds.
“I know the way the team plays. You can see the quality.
“I think the quality of training since I came in has been higher than what I had last season in the Championship.
“The tempo of the sessions and the actual quality of the coaching itself, the organisation is spot on.
“The tempo and individual quality is really good, the younger lads are right at it and have the right attitude. They’re always grafting and that’s really good to see.
“Everyone in the dressing room knows the situation, the quality is there but everyone knows the only way out of League One is working harder than everyone else.
“To get promoted from any league is tough. That’s the goal and once this club gets there, I think it will stay there and have the resources to go again.
“They almost did it last season but everything is in place and I can just see that, the work ethic and the quality.”
Lynch admits that one or two friends, having initially heard he had joined Sunderland, thought that meant he had landed a Premier League move.
It’s a story told as a positive, though.
It’s that kind of environment he is chasing and it’s clear that after the toughest time of his career, there is a genuine buzz about where it ended up.
“It’s a massive club, you just can’t get away from that,” he says.
“If it goes up, it’s the biggest club in the Championship. To get 29, 30,000 fans every week in League One, that’s just madness.
“I don’t know any player who wouldn’t that if they’re offered it.
“It’s just a no-brainer, really.”