The midfielder, who began his footballing career as a teenager with Bury, later switched to Oldham Athletic and Charlton before his move to the south coast, and Stephens emphasised the significant role that clubs lower down the pyramid still maintain.
He said, “Those football clubs are so important, it’s always been the case that there’s a big difference in money between the top leagues and the ones lower down, certainly all the time that I’ve been playing.
“I really value clubs like Bury, that’s what began my journey from coming out of school to becoming a Premier League player.
“It’s the same with lots of players – Jamie Vardy is another good example and those clubs are massively important for developing players and bringing people through.”
The Albion man reflected on his pathway from the EFL to the Premier League in more detail and believes that the hard work he put in as a youngster has reaped it’s rewards.
“To play in the Premier League is something I’ve worked really hard for, and that’s the same for a lot of other individuals here now too, so that pathway through the divisions is so important,” he continued.
“I probably did a lot more then in terms of what you would call hard graft like cleaning up around the place and putting up goals, and those times have all been worth it to play at the highest level like I am now.
“If you look through the leagues there are a lot of examples of players who have taken a similar route from the bottom to the top, and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.