Just two years ago, Harry Souttar admits he 'wasn't ready to play in the Championship.'
But after cutting his teeth during a couple of productive loan spells, the Socceroos defender has established himself as a mainstay at Stoke City and is set to be a integral part of their promotion push next year.
At just 22 years of age, Souttar has caught the eye of many with a string of solid performances in the heart of Stoke's defence this season.
He is extremely grateful for manager Michael O'Neill making the bold decision to integrate him straight into the starting eleven off the back of loan spells with Ross County and Fleetwood Town - especially considering how Souttar wasn't even sure he would play at all this season.
Now he has over 30 Championship appearances to his name, Souttar is remaining grounded and determined to continue improving.
"I've been pleased but there are things that I can still do better, things I'm working on daily," he told The Socceroos Podcast.
"But overall I can't be too disappointed in myself, I've played a lot of games which is something that I didn't think I was going to do."
For someone his age, Souttar has played more first team football than most.
Before O'Neill gave him his chance with Stoke, it was then-manager of Fleetwood Town Joey Barton who first put his faith in the Socceroos defender.
"I think the loans have definitely benefited me, playing the amount of games I did out on loan - I think I needed that," reflected Souttar.
I really don't think I was ready to play Championship football a couple of years ago - I didn't really know if I was going to play any football a couple of years ago. So credit to Joey Barton and everyone at Fleetwood for giving me that chance."
Souttar's season so far has even surprised himself a little, considering how comfortably he has adapted to the notoriously gruelling Championship.
"There's some really, really good players in the Championship, especially at the top end," he said.
"It's a demanding league, it's a tough league and it's really physical league as well, so every Saturday and Tuesday, you've got to be really at it.
"Stepping up from League One, there were team structures and stuff like that where I didn't really necessarily know how this team wants to play.
"But as everything in life, the more you do things, the more drills we do at training about how we want to start the game, how we press from the front and how we try and play out, the more I got comfortable with it."
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One person who has publicly backed Souttar is O'Neill, who continues played an important mentoring role in his development.
After the defender scored his first Stoke goal back in March, the Potters' head coach claimed he has 'all the attributes to play at the highest level'.
"All credit to the gaffer for believing in me as a young player, especially being a young defender," said Souttar.
"It's not easy to put your faith in a young centre-half which is normally where the most experienced players play, so credit to him, for giving me an opportunity and sticking by me as well.
"He's got a lot of praise but at the same time he's always on me, there's always things I can do better, which I like as a player.
"So in that sense, it's working really well this season and I think the coaching staff and the manager have really helped me do that."
Amid some speculation in the English press linking Souttar to Premier League clubs, he shared his dreams of playing in England's top tier with his current employers.
"I think every player wants to play at the highest level they can, especially the Premier League - it's the most-watched league in the world," said Souttar.
"I think if you ask any player they'll say they want to play in the Premier League, but there's only a certain people who get to do it, so it comes down to your technical ability and who's going to put in the work.
I certainly would love to be playing there in the future I want to play there with Stoke. I want to help the club get promoted back to where it should be.
"I think all the players at Stoke feel the same, we're all walking in the one direction to try and get Stoke back in the Premier League.
"As a squad we know what it'll take to get up there and that's something that hopefully we can really push for next season."
A lot has changed for Souttar since he last pulled on a Green and Gold shirt, during a memorable few weeks that saw him make his international debut and head home four goals in two World Cup qualifiers.
In respect to the defensive side of his game, Souttar promised Socceroos fans that they will see an even more mature player when the squad re-unite for the first time since November 2019.
"I think they can hopefully see an improved player, a player that's developed over the course of that time, becoming stronger and more confident in himself," he shared.
"I've had little bit more experience as well - I'm still young, but I've played a few games now and hopefully, I can just bring that experience.
"I'm just so excited to get back - I'm really looking forward to June, it's going to be four games in 12 days. Every footballer just wants to be playing games so I'm buzzing for that and hopefully we'll go through to the next stage."