Brentford's record signing Andreas Bjelland believes hard work has brought him to where he is today.
The defender, who has captained Denmark, has impressed in his first real season in action at Griffin Park – he missed the whole of last year's league campaign after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in August.
The 28-year-old started his youth career at Fredensborg BI, BSV and then came through the ranks at Lyngby, where he made his debut in 2006 aged 18.
Bjelland said: “I was probably not the biggest talent when I was young – playing U17 and U19. As I grew, I developed a lot.
“I took it step by step – I needed my school as well. That was the main priority and then gave football full time so I increased it from there.
“I think something else is just keep on going into school. If you choose your friends and family – there are a lot of things you have to say no to as you're playing on Saturday.
“It's a choice you make when you're younger. After school, I gave football a year and apparently it was for me.
“I had started to do some economics and university stuff so I would probably have done something in that field. You never know.”
After joining FC Nordsjaelland in 2009, he made 72 league appearances in three seasons before moving to FC Twente who had Steve McClaren in charge.
He explained: “I think it the tempo was the biggest difference between Denmark and Holland. It's a bigger league.
“Twente was a big team at that point. The tempo was a big thing in possession. All the teams want to do that. It was a great experience to push the tempo up and the pressure up.
“I had Steve for half a year before he left the second time. I think he was a really good manager. I liked him a lot.
“His type was a mixture between the two. Holland is difficult to put the English culture into. It was a mix. I liked his way of playing and a way of managing.”
When he decided to make the move to Brentford he spoke to some staff that worked with the now Derby boss to get an idea of what the Championship would be like.
Bjelland revealed: “I didn't speak to Steve. I spoke with some of the staff that was with him around his team just to hear about the level and stories about what it was.”
Much like his time at Twente where he missed the best part of his first season with a broken metatarsal, Bjelland endured a difficult start to life at Griffin Park with his knee injury.
The defender opened up: “It's always difficult, especially with a nasty injury like that. It makes you think about the outcome of this.
“You're asking questions of yourself. It was a tough period – the first four months were horrible. I was glad I had my family to come home to as kids don't know what it is and they'll laugh about you moving around and unable to do anything. It was a tough year and I got stronger out of it.”
The road to recovery was a long one and he had limited contact with the squad due to his work schedule and Bjelland divided his time between work and his wife and three children.
He said: “They are really long days. You have a lot of things to do so when I got home it was family time and a chance to think about something else.
“It's more or less family time. They're in nursery or school. I like to get my energy from my family.
“You always get some days off but the days are really long. I had the Sunday off to do things with the family and to get a smile back.”
Bjelland could have featured at the back end of the campaign but, with nothing to play for, the decision was taken to give him time to get fit for this season and, barring a groin injury in pre-season, it has been a better time of things for the Dane.
“I was ready to play last season but there was no need to force it. It was just to build it up for the pre-season,” Bjelland said.
“I had a groin injury coming back but I think that's bumps on the road. I think it was more a mental bump than anything else.”
Now the aim is to keep playing as much as possible, even if it is in the unusual position of left back.
He said: I always said centre back is my more natural position. I've only played it once before. I like playing in the middle but it's always going to be like that. I need to get my minutes.”