Tom James believes taking one step back has taken him two forward, convinced his move to Hibs can help push his case for a call up by Welsh boss Ryan Giggs.
Now 23, James made his Premier League debut at the age of just 18 for Cardiff City, a nerve-wracking encounter with a Chelsea side packed with stars such as Andre Schurrle, Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic and Fernando Torres.
However, those couple of minutes proved to be his only taste of action for his home-town club, the defender ending a 13-year association with the Bluebirds to get regular first team experience.
Now, having done that at Yeovil Town, James feels that becoming one of Hibs head coach Paul Heckingbottom’s summer signings, he can begin to attract the attention of Giggs.
The former Welsh Under-19 cap said: “My debut at Cardiff seems a long time ago now. But getting that taste of first team football and training with that calibre of player in the Prem was something that just gave me a hunger and a desire to thrive.
“You could definitely say the Chelsea game was nerve-wracking. I couldn’t remember the game five minutes after I came off the pitch, I was so nervous. Looking back, I can remember it a little bit now and it was a very proud day for me, my friends and family. I have really fond memories of that day.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, now Manchester United manager, was James’ Cardiff boss at that time with Jose Mourinho in the opposite dug-out but, he admits, that while the Norwegian always made him feel part of his plans as he did every other player, he decided he needed to move on to further his career.
He said: “I took the step down to play at Yeovil, but that was important to get league games in me and gain experience to move on to a club like Hibs so I feel that drop down has paid off.
“Every player is looking to get to the highest level they can, realistically, and I’m no different. I’ll go game-by-game and season-by-season and see where that takes me. I want to go as high as I can.”
Insisting it would have been “near impossible” to get international recognition while playing in League Two - although Yeovil will play this season in the National League having been relegated – James believes the number of matches televised live on this side of the border can only help his case.
He said: “That’s one of the big reasons I came up here. There’s a lot of matches on TV and that gives you the platform to play in front of even more people than you can think of. Hopefully playing in front of all these people and on TV will help put my hat in the ring for Wales.”
James watched Reading striker Marc McNulty arrive in Edinburgh on loan last season and within months earn a call up by Scotland, something he feels only lends support to his hopes.
He said: “You see that and it makes you believe you can be the next one. I am hoping that I am going to be the next one, to play for Wales is a dream come true if it happens. So, fingers crossed, it all goes well and I can make that happen.”
Conceding last season was “tough and long” as the Glovers battled the drop, James is looking forward to a fresh start although he’s come across one very familiar face in Hibs new striker Christian Doidge, another of Heckingbottom’s recent arrivals and a player he faced several times over the past two seasons.
“We had a wee rivalry,” he said of the former Forest Green Rovers hitman. “He’s definitely a tough opponent. I don’t want to praise him up too much because he’ll probably see this, but he is one of the toughest strikers I have played against when I was playing centre half. The fact there’s a few new faces has helped me settle in, I’m not the only one in that position.”