The journey from academy prospect to first-team regular is always a challenging one, but a move to Iceland proved the perfect solution for MK Dons defender Callum Brittain.
Just 17 months after leaving for a two-month spell with Throttur Reykjavik, Brittain is an established first-team regular for the Dons and an England Under-20 international.
The 19-year-old won his first two caps earlier in October and has been rewarded for an outstanding series of performances at club level with the EFL’s Young Player of the Month award for September.
But the right-back does not think he would be in this position without his Nordic adventure.
“It was a different experience but one that was worthwhile. I learned a lot in Iceland, not just in football but off the pitch as well,” he told BBC Sport.
“I wasn’t playing any real football at the time so just to go and experience some sort of first-team football was a great opportunity and something I wanted to do.
“I’d definitely recommend it to others.”
‘Iceland taught me a lot’
Brittain was joined at Throttur by team-mate Kabongo Tshimanga, but the pair were not the first to make the move from Milton Keynes to Iceland’s top flight.
“George Baldock went out there and did it a couple of seasons before. I spoke to him a bit about it and he said it was a great opportunity to go and play football over the summer,” added Brittain.
“It’s always nice to have someone there with you and keep you company, because it is a bit lonely out there and there’s not many people there even though it is the capital.
“Independently I built up myself a lot. Living on my own, cooking for myself, going shopping – which wasn’t the best part of it but it was definitely an experience. I learned a lot.”
There was one downside to the move though, as the timing of Brittain’s stay meant he was in Iceland when they knocked England out of Euro 2016 at the last-16 stage.
“I was actually sitting in a pub over there with my dad,” he explained. “He was wearing an England top at the time so we were a bit gutted when we saw Iceland beat us.
“We left quite swiftly but I got a little bit of stick in the dressing room, just a bit.”
Following in Alli’s footsteps
MK Dons have earned a reputation for developing talented English youngsters, with Tottenham’s Dele Alli, Everton’s Brendan Galloway and Liverpool’s Sheyi Ojo among the products of their academy system.
But few players could match Brittain’s dream debut in the England set-up – playing the full 90 minutes of the Under-20 side’s 5-1 victory over Italy in Gorgonzola.
“It was amazing to be honest, something I’ve never experienced before,” said Brittain. “I’d always thought about it but I never thought it would happen so when it did I was over the moon.
“To go away to Italy and beat them 5-1 – not many people can say they’ve done that, so it’s an honour.
“It’s crazy and the experience that I’ve gained from it is incredible. I’ve learned a lot from being there – different tactics, working technically on my touch and one-touch play.”
Following in Alli’s footsteps might be the long-term goal, but for now Brittain is concentrating on helping Milton Keynes climb the League One table.
“That’s every young boy’s dream but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I just want to focus on now and playing more football,” he said.
“I’ve only really had this month so I want to keep on learning, improving and building on my performances.
“As a team, we just need to build some confidence. We’ve been on a bit of a run and had a bit of a dip in the last game, but the confidence is there and I think we’re really starting to gel.”