Andy Dales admits playing in the harsh environment of the lower leagues in England with tough football on the park and everything from freezing showers to sauna-like dressing-rooms off it was the perfect preparation for the big battle he faces at Dundee.
The 24-year-old Scunthorpe United winger joined the Dark Blues on Tuesday on loan until the end of the season.
Before joining the Iron, Dales, who started his career with Derby, had four seasons with Northern Premier League side Mickelover Sports.
He admits his time there was an eye opener it but he believes it has made him ready for anything – including trying to ensure top-flight safety with Dundee.
Dales, who will be in Dens boss Jim McIntyre’s squad for today’s William Hill Scottish Cup tie with Queen of the South, said: “I have played in non-league so I’m open to all different experiences.
“Coming into a relegation battle isn’t something I’m fazed by. I’m ready for anything,
“Whether it’s a title race or a relegation battle, I’m confident I can cope with anything.
“Playing in non-league opens your eyes to things, I had been at Derby and then had to drop down with Mickelover.
“You see some sights. It’s a lot different from league football and it’s tough.
“Sometimes you go to places where the showers are freezing cold – deliberately – or somewhere else and the heating is on full blast.
“It’s a lot different but I’m glad I did it, it’s made me want it more because I don’t want to go back to that level.
“If you watch non-league games there are good players but there are also people who don’t want to be there and do the dirty bit of the game.
“It was good for me and hopefully I can kick on now I’m at Dundee.”
Dales admitted he was really keen to join the Dark Blues when Scunthorpe boss Stuart McCall told him there was interest in him – and he immediately jumped in his car and drove for six hours straight to Dens to prove it.
The winger added: “It all happened very quickly, I went into training on Monday morning and the gaffer pulled me in to say this opportunity was here for me.
“I have been playing and he told me he wasn’t pushing me out of the door but it was a good chance for me.
“Although I’ve played in the first half of the season, I had been on the bench for the last few games and I think my time would have been limited.
“So I didn’t think about it too long, I was in the car and drove six hours to get here.
“I arrived on Monday night and trained with the lads for the first time on Tuesday.
“It’s a new challenge for me, I’m here to play and hopefully show everyone what I can do.
“There is a lot of focus on this league so it’s a good opportunity. The game up here should suit me.
“I play on the wing, getting the ball into the box so that’s what the manager wants me to do.”
Dales caught the eye of Scunthorpe after being invited to attend the V9 Academy which is run by Leicester City and England striker Jamie Vardy to give non-league players a chance to showcase their talent.
Dales added: “I was at the Vardy Academy in the summer, which was great.
“It was at Man City’s training ground – it was a bit different to what I’d been used to.
“Vardy himself was there one day. He was on England duty but came in the day of the Costa Rica game.
“He just told everyone that he started where we were and worked his way up, so work hard and keep going.
“A few people have had league contracts on the back of it, so it’s a very good thing he’s doing.”
Dales admitted he can’t wait to get started with Dundee against a team he once had a trial with.
He said: “I went on trial in Scotland before with Queen of the South.
“I remember coming up and playing for 30 minutes in a bounce game but I got injured and nothing happened off the back of it.
“So I could have been in Scotland a few years ago but things just didn’t work out.
“I’m looking forward to getting started this weekend.”
Dundee will be without the injured Jack Hamilton, Josh Meekings and Andrew Davies along with Darren O’Dea who is suspended.