Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Dale Stephens believes that his rise through the divisions to the Premier League from a young age has helped shaped his game over the course of his career.
The 29-year-old began footballing life as a trainee at Bury, before joining then Blue Square Premier side Droylsden on loan and returning to Gigg Lane during the 2007/08 season, and he highlighted that those experiences have benefitted his game.
He said, “Life at the lower levels is very different to where I find myself now – but at the time I loved it.
"I came from playing under-18 and reserve team football when I joined Droylsden, so it was nice to be able to come into an environment where you were looking to get three points on Saturday.
“I think it’s stood me in good stead to start at those levels - it’s more of a scenic route and there’s a lot to be said for it, it makes you mentally strong and you’re brought up doing things like cleaning the showers – it was something I enjoyed, and it was very old-school.
“We used to run up and down the stands at Bury and it was part of the weekly routine. You’d come in during the morning, pack all the bits for the reserve game and then go out onto the pitch and run up every flight in the main stand - there were quite a few!
“I enjoyed it and we were all young lads who liked to do it all together, and I believe it took me to the level I’m playing today.”
The Seagulls host Tottenham Hotspur this afternoon at the Amex Stadium looking to build on Monday evening’s 2-2 draw with Southampton at St Mary’s, and Stephens emphasised the importance starting the contest against Mauricio Pochettino’s men strongly.
“They’re on the back of a difficult run – it can go one of two ways, that can continue or from their perspective, they’ll be looking for a reaction.
“But we’re going into it off the back of a good second-half performance on Monday night and we’ve fought back in both of our last matches.
“It means the spirit in the camp is good and everyone’s looking forward to a massive game this afternoon.”
“You can’t give anyone an advantage in this league, and we always play well when we score first in matches, so that’s what we have to do, and we have to attack the game.”
Chris Hughton’s side are unbeaten on home soil in the league since a defeat to Leicester City in March last season, and Stephens was full of praise for both the Amex crowd and the team’s performances on the south coast.
“It’s a noisy ground and an unbelievable stadium to play in every week. But we don’t want it to be a joy for anyone else, because our home record has been good for all the time I’ve been with the club.
“There’s always a good atmosphere around it and it’s one of the best grounds that’s been newly built in terms of noise.
“It’s probably what kept us up last year, so we need to keep the record going and maintain it as a fortress like it has been.”