Hope Akpan says more Premier League youngsters should try their luck in the lower divisions.
He said: “It was hard leaving. I had been there for 10 years and it was all I knew as a kid growing up.
“But I think it was for the best and it taught me a lot in the lower leagues, showing me the ugly side of the game, which I think I needed.
“A lot of young players who stay around the big clubs don’t get that. Now I’m a stronger player and person.
“After the knock-back of leaving Everton, my attitude and the way I train has improved tenfold.
“My ambition at the beginning of the season was to get promoted with Crawley or to be playing in the Championship come January or at the end of the season.
“It was a little bit of a shock that the Premier League came calling so soon. But I’m taking it in my stride.”