BLACKBURN Rovers new boy Shane Duffy was a raw teenager the last time he plied his trade in East Lancashire.
But the strapping 6ft 4in centre back returns to the area battle hardened and ready to hit the ground running after a season in the Championship.
Duffy, who yesterday completed his transfer to Rovers from Everton, spent the vast majority of the 2013-14 campaign on loan at Yeovil Town.
The 22-year-old was unable to stop the Glovers from suffering an instant relegation back to League One.
But his performances at Huish Park impressed Rovers boss and long-term admirer Gary Bowyer enough to make him the first player he has signed for a fee this summer.
Duffy has arrived at Ewood Park for an initial fee believed to be in the region of £400,000-£500,000.
And in putting pen to paper on a three-year contract he has brought an end to his six-year association with Everton.
It was during his formative years at the Premier League outfit in which Duffy spent a short one-match spell on loan at Rovers’ rivals Burnley at the back end of the 2010-11 campaign.
“It was my first ever loan spell, I was only young and inexperienced. I was a raw 18-year-old,” remembers Duffy, who made his international debut in June.
“I only played one game at the end of the season and there was a lot of pressure on Eddie Howe at the time and he went back to experience.
“I was young and it wasn’t such a successful time but hopefully this will be better.”
Duffy was sent out on further, more successful, loan spells at Scunthorpe United and then Yeovil, to gain more experience.
“I was raw at the time so I needed to go down the levels and learn the game,” said Duffy, who played 39 times for the Glovers last season including in both of their league clashes with Rovers.
“There was only so much I could do at Everton and going down to those clubs – which were a lot different from this club and Everton – was a totally new experience. It was a good test of me to see if I could do it.
“I took it in my stride, thrived off and enjoyed it.”
So much so that it led Duffy, who made 10 first-team appearances for Everton, to leaving Goodison Park permanently despite manager Roberto Martinez’s insistence he could stay and fight for his place with England internationals Phil Jagielka and John Stones.
“It was a difficult decision, Everton brought me up and I have to thank them a lot as they’ve done so much for me, but it’s the time in my career when I’ve got to play football – and that’s what I plan on doing here,” said Duffy, whose first became aware of Bowyer’s interest in the summer.
“It’s a decision I had to make. I could have stayed at Everton and waited more but I could have got to an age where I’d not had many games under my belt. But it’s done and I’m delighted it’s done.
“Everton were so good to me, the manager was so good to me, but it was his decision that he probably had better players and more experienced players and sometimes you have to take that on the chin and think about yourself more than the club. That’s what I’ve done.”
Rovers return to action on Saturday week at home to Wigan Athletic.
And Duffy, who watched Bowyer’s side in their 3-1 defeat at Wolves at the weekend, said: “I’m ready. I’ve done my pre-season with Everton and had some tough games.
“I feel sharp and, after a week of training with the lads, hopefully I can try and get in the team.”
Shane Duffy factfile
- Came through Everton’s youth academy making five appearances for the Toffees
- His first move away from Goodison Park was to Burnley where he played one game during a loan spell at Turf Moor in 2011
- Had further loan spells with Scunthorpe and Yeovil Town
- Initially represented Northern Ireland at youth level before switching to the Republic of Ireland. He has one full cap.