Adam Webster has taken the “long way round” to the Premier League.
Brighton defender Webster admits his ambition is to follow the likes of Harry Maguire and Jamie Vardy and force his way into the England squad.
Webster, 24, who has already represented England at under-18s and 19s level, believes coming up through the leagues is the perfect start because it keeps players grounded and makes them appreciate life in the top flight.
Former Portsmouth trainee Webster began his career at Fratton Park when the club was struggling to survive and he was thrown in to the deep end as a teenager and given an old school apprenticeship.
Webster said: “It’s a cliche but I’ve come the long way round. A lot of players do it now, come from non-league and all the way into the Premier League.
“I think I appreciate it a lot more now. You see young lads and they don’t realise how easy they’ve got it. The lads in the dressing room always say it, they’ve never experienced what it was like.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve had it bad, but when I was 16, 17, travelling with the first team, I was standing up at the back of the bus, washing dishes, making coffees for everyone and you’d be scared to do anything wrong. You’d even be scared to speak!
“That was all part of being a youngster back then. Make the coffees, do the washing up and not sit down the whole journey. Young lads now have it so easy, they don’t get any stick for it. It’s just the way the game has changed.
“I definitely wouldn’t change it because it keeps you grounded and makes you appreciate it even more.
“It’s definitely a goal for me to one day play for England. But my immediate goal is to play well, stay in the team and do as well as I can for Brighton.
“There’s players in the England squad who came from the lower leagues, non-league, you can see the pathway there and, long term, that is a target for me.”
Webster was signed by Mick McCarthy at Ipswich, then went to Bristol City and became Brighton’s record £20m signing in the summer, having established himself as a ball-playing centre half in the Championship.
Chichester-born Webster reveals that he was keen to sign for Graham Potter after playing against his Swansea side last season when he was still at Bristol City.
Webster said: “I played against Swansea and his team last year, I was playing in a good footballing team but Swansea were another level, they played a lot of football and I remember thinking: ‘I’d love to play like that one day.’
“It’s been perfect for me. He’s very calm. He knows how he wants to play, has his own ideas, he’s very relaxed, but the lads really like him and he’s been really good. He’s been great for me, his style suits my game.
“As soon as you know a Premier League club wants you, you want to take that chance. Every player wants to play in the Premier League. I’m just grateful that Brighton showed faith in me, brought me to the club and hopefully I can repay them.”
Brighton have made a solid start and, despite a tough defeat at Manchester City before the international break, Webster took positives from the game and is confident about the season ahead.
Webster added: “From the Man City game, we took the game to them, tried to play our game, playing out from the back, not just boring football, we created chances and there was a lot of positives from that game.
“We need to look ahead to the next game. Our home form will be crucial. The atmosphere is always brilliant at the Amex, our fans really get behind the team.
“The club has been in the Premier League for a couple of years, it’s about sustaining that, finishing as high as we can, the club has aspirations to get into the top ten, build a good foundation for the club to kick on.
“There’s a good buzz around the place. With the impressive training ground, incredible stadium and a brilliant fanbase as well. It’s got everything in place for us to try and achieve something special here.”