Signed in the August and gone by the September. For his first experience of Scottish football James Brown stepped into a revolving door and came back out of it with his head in a spin.
By his own admission, the young full-back was ill-prepared for his loan spell at Livingston and a 2018 game against Celtic in the early season sun proved to be his first and last.
But even though the Premiership chewed him up and spat him out, back across the border, the Millwall defender was able to grasp that he had endured a career-shaping ordeal rather than a career-breaking one.
And as he prepares to face the Hoops again this Sunday with St Johnstone, Brown is glad that he chose to confront his failure in Scotland rather than run away from it.
“In hindsight it’s one of the best things that has happened to me,” he said.
“I was 20 and I was only there for a month because my loan was terminated.
“I got one game and didn’t play well in it.
“Looking back now, I know it’s a cliché, but it was an experience that has put me in a better place. I did learn from it. I’m more mature as a person and a player and that time helped me massively.
“At 20 you’re still learning how football works and about how to adapt to a new environment. It was a tough time but I’m back in Scotland two or three years later, all the better for it.
“It was a big motivation for me to come back up here and prove that I can perform at this level. It would have been easy for me to stay down south, closer to home.
“Hopefully I can keep proving myself over the next few months.”
It was probably the wrong club at the wrong time for me personally.
The Livingston that Brown arrived at was not the Livingston his Saints team has just beaten and will face in the Betfred Cup final later this month. Freshly promoted, with a rookie manager in charge who would only last seven weeks, were not conducive circumstances for a wide-eyed youngster to thrive in, on reflection.
“It was probably the wrong club at the wrong time for me personally,” he said.
“My mentality back then as a young player wasn’t as strong as it is now, I believe.
“I probably went in there thinking it would be easier than what it was.
“And football is ruthless. You get chewed up and found out quickly, and that’s what happened to me.
“I remember going up on the Thursday and Kenny Miller pulled me aside and told me I’d be playing against Celtic the following day. I thought: ‘Cheers!’
“So that was a baptism of fire, definitely. I didn’t perform well.
“I was up against Jonny Hayes and he gave me a good runaround that day. I’ll remember that forever!
“It’s something I have taken with me and used, and it fuelled my motivation to come back up here and prove to myself I am cut out to play up here.”
Brown will have earned the trust of his Saints boss, Callum Davidson, with an impressive debut against Rangers last midweek. There were certainly no burns from his second baptism of fire.
“I’ve had to be patient,” said Brown, who arrived in January. “Shaun Rooney has been performing really well so obviously I’ve got competition there.
“Rangers away is some game to make your debut. It doesn’t get any harder than that.
“I enjoyed every minute of it.
“It was my first competitive game in about six months – sink or swim, I guess.
“I’ve been training day in, day out and I felt good about myself. That makes a big difference.
“It was more a feeling of excitement than nerves. The reason I came up here was to play in big games like Rangers and Celtic.
“It just goes to show when you are more comfortable with your environment and more mature as a person you can deal with those situations better.
“At Millwall I was always in and around the squad although I haven’t played as much as I would have liked.
“So I have been in those environments, playing with and against big players with big personalities.
“It’s something that has put me in good stead to perform.
“I really enjoyed being back out there and hopefully I showed people what I can do.”
Davidson didn’t need slick PR skills to persuade Brown to trade places with Danny McNamara. The Irish under-21 international greatly enhanced his reputation through his performances in St Johnstone blue and is now a first team regular back in London, with a long-term contract signed, after he was recalled half-way through his McDiarmid Park loan.
“We should have met up at a services as we were making the opposite journey!” said Brown.
“Obviously I gave him a couple of phone calls to get the lowdown on everything about St Johnstone. He sold it really well. Those conversations do help. Footballers always seek out players before a move to find out what they can.
“He didn’t have a bad word to say about the club because he’d had a great time up here.
“Danny had told me that this was a hard-working, humble squad with no egos and I’ve found out for myself that it’s a really good bunch of guys.
“He didn’t need him to tell me about the gaffer because I’d worked with him myself at Millwall. That was the main attraction. All in all, the move was a no-brainer.
“Danny has shown the value of a successful loan here.
“He’s shown that if you perform well at a good club playing in a top league, you’ll be rewarded. He’s got himself into the Millwall team and has just signed a new contract. He’s flying.
“It’s the same sort of goals for me – play well, help St Johnstone and put myself out there. We’ll see where it takes me. Hopefully I can have as good an experience.”
As impressive as McNamara was at Perth, he didn’t feature in Saints’ Betfred Cup run, having been on international duty for the group fixtures, injured for the last-16 clash with Motherwell and not selected for the quarter-final at Dunfermline.
“I’m sure I’ll remind him of that if I get the chance!” joked Brown. “It would be brilliant to go to Hampden on the 28th and win that, it would be great for the club and all the boys involved.”
And bringing a winners’ medal into Millwall training in the summer?
“I’m not sure he’s be too pleased if I did that!” said Brown.
“That would be great. I haven’t been here for the run as such but the semi-final was a great experience to be a part of and hopefully come the end of the month we can create a bit of history for the club.
“And to be a part of that would be special.”
This is football – it’s ruthless.
That a cup triumph would come at the expense of Livingston won’t be a motivation for Brown at the national stadium.
“I don’t have anything to prove to them,” he said. “I know what I can do. I don’t hold a grudge or anything. This is football – it’s ruthless.
“If they didn’t want me at that time then they didn’t want me. There’s nothing I can do about that.
“But I enjoyed the win on Saturday certainly!
“And hopefully we can replicate that performance in the cup final because that would go a long way to giving us a great chance of winning it.”
There are two league games to be played before then, the first of which is against a Celtic side back to something approaching top form.
Brown and his team-mates won’t be lacking confidence either, though.
“I’ve seen the results against Celtic and from speaking to the boys we’ve played well in the games,” he said.
“To go to their place and draw 2-2 was a good result.
“We’ve spoken internally and we believe we can give everyone a game and get a result.
“And especially with the way the league has been this season, you saw St Mirren go and get a result against Celtic the other week.
“Anyone can realistically beat anyone on their day. So we are positive we can go up against them and get a result.”