Queens Park Rangers striker DJ Campbell insists he made the right move leaving Premier League rivals Aston Villa as a teenager.
London-born Campbell, 29, is set to face Villa, the club he left as a homesick 16-year-old, at Loftus Road on Sunday.
He ended up in non-league football before finding his way back into the professional game as a 24-year-old with Brentford.
But Campbell, who signed for boyhood heroes QPR in the summer, believes he made the right move by leaving Villa Park.
He said: "I regretted leaving Villa but now I think it was the best thing to happen to my career going into non-league.
"It was the first time I'd moved away from my mum and I had to live in digs.
"I'm a London boy and had been around my family all the time.
"I'd never stayed out on my own and I don't think I was ready for it.
"I had my daughter at a young age and I wasn't earning a lot of money at Villa.
"It was a lot to deal with. I couldn't really cope and I crumbled."
Campbell stacked shelves for a living after leaving Villa and even stopped playing football for 18 months.
But he returned to the game with non-league Chesham before signing for Brentford after impressing in Yeading's memorable 2005 FA Cup run.
Campbell said: "Working was enjoyable in some ways because it was real life.
"A lot of people see the money footballers earn and it is a bit of a wonderland.
"It keeps my feet on the floor because I've lived both lives.
"I saw Les Ferdinand and Ian Wright who both made it from non-league and I was desperate to get where they were.
"I'm not where they were but thankfully I'm in the top flight again."