Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Dale Stephens showed his appreciation towards having the chance to play in the Premier League this season, and believes the transition has happened at the correct time in his career.
The 28-year-old has played every minute of Albion’s 22 Premier League games so far this season, and Stephens expressed the pleasure he gets from performing at the top level week-in week-out.
He said, “It’s tough, it's not easy but it's something I've personally worked for, for many years. To get this opportunity at this age - I’m very, very grateful.
“I know I had the opportunity a few years ago when I was younger but I think I'd rather do it the way I've done it.
“I don't think I was a good enough player back then. I probably stepped up at the right time.”
The Seagulls take on West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Saturday, and Stephens insists the playing style won’t change, as Chris Hughton’s men look to record a second victory over the Baggies this season.
“They’re obviously a side who are fighting to get out of the relegation zone, so I expect it to be a tight game.
“When we play away from home, we build our platform on a clean sheet, a good defensive display and hope we have enough going forward to nick the win.
“It will be no different from our perspective. We’ve not changed the way we have played for a couple of years and it will be more of the same.
“There’s a lot of teams down there - a few bad results and you start slipping down the table.
“It's important that you look at the margin of points between yourselves and the bottom three and we are looking to stretch that come Saturday. “
Stephens also commented on the injury to Izzy Brown which forced the attacker to return to Chelsea, but identified the opportunities for other members of Albion’s first-team squad.
“He’s a top player. I couldn't believe how young he was. He's very unlucky that he's picked up a serious injury. But he's a level-headed fella and I'm sure he will be back stronger next season.
“You don't want to wish injury on anybody but sometimes that's how your chance comes around.
“Sam [Baldock] came on Monday and did well. There's not much more these players can do to get in the team.
“We have quite a lot of them who are training very well throughout the season and now they're just waiting for opportunities.”
Supporters can watch Dale Stephens' full look ahead to Saturday's game at the Hawthorns on Seagulls TV and Albion fans can sign up to the service by clicking here.