Marine goalkeeper Bayleigh Passant says he has loved “every minute” at Rossett Park after making 100 appearances for the club.
The 22-year-old reached the landmark in an important 2-1 away win at Belper Town, last weekend. He joins an elite number of players for the Mariners.
It’s been a topsy-turvy stint for Passant at Marine after signing in 2020 with highs of winning promotion in last season’s Northern Premier League West playoff final and being between the sticks for their famous FA Cup third-round clash with Tottenham Hotspur.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the former Tranmere Rovers youngster as he was forced to spend time out of the team last season after a dip in form. However, he regained the number one shirt at Rossett Park and has proved his importance.
“To hit 100 games at any team is some achievement especially with what I’ve done at the club,” he told Off The Park. “I’ve been able to play in big games, been able to get promotion, since I’ve been here I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it.
“I had the downs of not playing last season when I was taken out of the team due to the performances but I knew I had the backing of the gaffer, everyone in the club and the fans, I got back the number one shirt and picked up where I left off.
“Even though I’ve been here for three seasons but I’ve technically only had one season – last season – so to hit 100 games with one full season, it’s crazy to think about,” the shot-stopper added as he cast his mind through his time with Neil Young’s side. “Coming to the backend of last season and this season, I’ve got to be on the top of my game every week because I’ve got the gaffer and the players relying on me to do my job.
“I had a shocking performance in the playoff semi-final [against Workington] but I was lucky enough to have the players around me bail me out of the crap.
“It’s been some journey up to now. Coming out of professional football with Tranmere in the transition of COVID, if you had told me I’d have signed for Marine, played the games I have, won promotion, I’d think you were speaking nonsense.
“You never know what can happen in football, it’s been some journey, we’ve got 12 games left in the league and all we can do now is take every game as they come, focus on the next game and get three points.
“Even before with Tranmere, we used to play Marine in friendlies and you could tell how good the fan base was. Since I’ve been here, the Tottenham game has exposed the team, the club itself to more youngsters who live in the local area to support their local team instead of Liverpool and Everton.”
Passant was in the playoff winning squad that saw off Calum McIntyre’s Runcorn Linnets last season. It was far from smooth sailing for the Mariners as a points deduction on the eve of their season-ender saw them slip to the final playoff spot.
They faced a trip to Workington and had to come from behind in extra-time after Neil Kengni’s hat-trick. The attacker was on the scoresheet again against Linnets before Jack Dunn headed the Mariners back into the Northern Premier League.
The Marine manager has been honest in his ambitions for this season as they earmarked ensuring their position in next season’s competition. But now with 13 games remaining, they have their sights firmly set on a late playoff push.
“I’ve found it harder but there’s not too much of a difference,” Passant said describing the difference between the Northern Premier League West and the Premier Division. “Teams below, Workington, Leek Town, Macclesfield, you can tell with the big step up they may struggle but once you get your foot down, you feel fine.
“We came into this league aiming for playoffs, we’re in a good position, when we were telling people our expectations this season and mentioned playoffs, they thought we were mad because we just came up but the team that we’ve got, the coaching staff, we’re all behind each other and give 100 per cent.
“The gaffer said ‘we’ve got 13 games left,’ he said ‘why can’t we win 13 games?’” he hinted, offering an insight into the dressing room aspirations. “We had a player sent-off away against Belper, when you’re in the 90th minute and have a long-throw, some might think to settle for a point. We wanted the three, Lussey sent a cannon in and then Lewis Earl connected with the header and won the three points.”
The former Tranmere trainee, who was on the bench for Rovers’ EFL games in 2019, ultimately dreams of returning to the professional game. However, he doesn’t see himself anywhere other than being Mariners number one as his focus remains on a late playoff push with Marine look to end the season strongly.
“The aim for me is to be back in professional football. If it’s to still stay at Marine and to play another 50 or 100 games that’s what it will be, but until then, I’m not focused on next season, I’m only focused on now and that’s to help the team get playoffs. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, I don’t see myself going anywhere else.”