Fleetwood Town loan star Harry Souttar says the difference between Under-23 football and League One is like night and day as he relishes his first break in men’s football in England.
It is hard to believe the 20-year-old from Stoke City has only been at Highbury a month, having established a key partnership with Ash Eastham at the heart of Joey Barton’s defence.
Souttar was playing U23 development football in the Potteries before January’s loan switch to Town.
He made his EFL debut in the 1-0 win over Charlton and has racked up two more clean sheets in the wins over Burton Albion and Bradford City.
It is not his first taste of senior football, having featured for Scottish side Ross County on loan last season, but Souttar says he is learning fast on and off the pitch as he targets another win at relegation-battling Walsall this weekend.
He said: “I’ve been pleased. I didn’t know what it was going to be like coming in.
“It is my first taste of proper football in England and it’s gone well.
“We should have got a better result at the weekend but I’ve started reasonably well with three wins and a draw from five games.
“I’m learning on and off the park. Defending, team shape and stuff I know already, but when you play in the league every point matters and we want three. It has been a big learning curve.
“When I was up in Scotland on loan last season, the gap between every side in the division is so small.
“But it is night and day compared to U23 football because every point matters.
“Three points are on the line and livelihoods are at stake.”
Fleetwood head to Walsall six points behind sixth-placed Doncaster Rovers and Souttar (left) has not ruled out a late surge for the play-offs with 11 games to go.
And joining a team that is battling at the right end of the table is a more pleasant experience than the one he encountered in his native Scotland last term.
He added: “It is brilliant. When I went on loan to Ross County last year we were fighting relegation. It went down to the last day which was not nice.
“To come here, and for everything to be positive and everyone driving towards the same goal is a good feeling.
“You can see from our recent performances that we think we can beat anyone in the league.
“Just look at the Luton game (the Hatters are league leaders). We were in the game and it was just a free-kick (that beat Town). Anyone can beat anyone.”