Tangling with the hardmen of non-league football has helped turn young striker Jerry Yates into a first-team prospect at Rotherham United.
The 19-year-old, who scored against Premier League Sunderland in Saturday’s friendly at AESSEAL New York Stadium, spent part of last season on loan at Harrogate Town.
And he revealed he grew up quickly as he faced up to the phsyical challenge of some rugged combatants in National League North.
“I’m glad I went to the National North, but that was a different ball game,” he said. “It was ‘pump football’ and you had some big brutes coming through the back of you.
“But it wasn’t too bad. It took me a game to get used to it. It helped me playing with men as well.”
Yates has impressed in pre-season and grabbed an expertly-taken goal in front of new boss Alan Stubbs in the 2-1 defeat against the Black Cats.
He was out of the first-team picture last year after making his Championship debut in the 2014/15 campaign and is now determined to earn a regular place in Stubbs’ matchday squad.
“Last year was frustrating but I learned a lot from it,” he said. “I had to go out on loan to Harrogate, do my business there and score some goals.
“This pre-season I knuckled down and thought: ‘I need to be in that squad.’”
The youngster, who joined Rotherham as a schoolboy and has risken through the ranks, loved the test against top-flight opposition
“It’s a different level (from development games),” he said. “You have a little bit more time in these sort of games, but the quality is so much higher and the intensity much greater when you are getting pressed. Your mind has to be switched on as well as your fitness.”
Meanwhile, the Millers are believed to be in talks with Tottenham Hotspur about bringing Grant Ward back to New York on loan.
The 21-year-old right winger helped the Millers secure their second-tier survival last season and was a big asset with his speed and attacking runs.
Stubbs said: “I know he did very well here and I know he’s a good player. It would be wrong for me to elaborate on it any more.
“But we are looking to bring in some talented players and he is a talented player. Whether it is him or any others, we’ll have to wait and see.”
The Millers played a private friendly against Spurs at the London club’s Enfield training complex last Thursday.
Injuries picked up be left-back Joe Mattock and utility man Greg Halford against Sunderland aren’t thought to be too serious.
Both men departed before half-time, and Stubbs said: “It was more precautionary than anything.
“Joe got a knock on the side of his knee. Had it been a league game, potentially he could have carried on. We don’t want to take risks, especially with the size of the squad at the moment.
“Greg’s groin was a little bit tight, so we just decided to take him off.”