The 32-year-old has had to wait for his chance in the top flight and has proven something of a late developer as he did not make the step up from part-time football in Northern Ireland until 24.
"Maybe I wasn't ready when I was younger," McAuley told the Express & Star.
"I came into football late. I was thankful to get the start in the league I was in but I was always pushing myself and trying to get as high as I could.
"When I was in the Championship, I always thought I would get to this level through promotion."