Recent Peterborugh United signing Aaron Williams believes dropping out of the Football League could prove to be the best decision of his career.
Three years dodging fearssome tackles delivered by rock-hard semi-professionals toughened up the striker.
So much so the 22 year-old is finding some aspects of professional football a doddle in comparison.
Williams made eight substitute appearances for Walsall as a teenager before joining the Midlands non-league circuit, playing for Worcester City, Rushall Olympic and Nuneaton, before taking up an offer to join Posh.
“I was 18 when I made my first-team debut for Walsall and I struggled,” Williams admitted. “I was thrown in at the deep end.
“Mind you when I dropped into non-league football that wasn’t easy either. I was playing against big blokes who had worked hard all week and who just wanted to kick lumps out of you.
“But it toughened me up. I became very streetwise and I learnt to protect the ball as well as myself. I soon learnt that if these defenders kicked you it would hurt so I adapted.
“You don’t get any time on the ball in non-league football, but I’m certain dropping out of the full-time game and coming back into it was the best decision I could have made.”
Williams didn’t hesitate when Posh came calling at the end of last year.
Posh boss Graham Westley invited him for a trial, liked what he saw and snapped him up during January.
Two months later and Williams has started three first-team matches in a row, scored twice and earned comparisons with Conor Washington, a former Posh player who looks set to play in the Euros Finals in France this summer for Northern Ireland, just five months after leaving the ABAX Stadium.
“Although Nuneaten were a full-time club, it took a while to adjust to playing for Peterborough,” Williams added.
“They were sixth in the league when I arrived so I didn’t expect to get into the first team that quickly, but I got my head down, took on board what the manager and coaches told me, and luckily I started to get into the matchday squad, and then the starting line-up.
“I believe I am a versatile striker. I don’t mind holding the ball up and bringing others into play. I also don’t mind being asked to chase balls down the flanks.
“I enjoy the extra time you get on the ball in League One. That helps me and I just hope I can do enough to stay in the team.
“Every game I get under my belt is a chance to learn and improve. If I get enough games I’m sure the goals will keep coming.
“I knew before I joined, that Peterborough help strikers to progress so I wanted to come as soon as I heard of their interest.
“I think they’ve had eight forwards go on to big clubs which is impressive.”