Reputation meant nothing to me when I came up against a world-class striker.
I didn't care how many goals they'd scored, the awards they'd collected or the column inches they'd accumulated.
It was the fine details on the pitch that mattered to me, what they did to try and give themselves the edge. I would study their all-round performance.
I would know if they feinted to shoot, if they shifted their body beforehand, their patterns of play and how they tried to upset a defender with any dirty tactics.
When a pass or goalkeeper's kick-out was coming towards them, I knew exactly how the striker was going to respond and what I needed to do to stop him.
During my last game for Northern Ireland against Austria at Windsor Park in the inaugural Nations League, I was pictured grabbing Marko Arnautovic around the neck on the ground after an aerial challenge - but this was me putting down a marker.
Having studied him, I knew Arnautovic, when the ball was in the air, liked to take a step back into a defender and deliver an elbow to the gut. This was usually unseen by the ref and therefore would allow him time and space to cause havoc in a defence.
But I knew it was coming and when he tried to elbow me, I hurled him over as if to say, 'I am wise to your antics and this will not work with me'.
In the Premier League, I was coming up against world-class strikers week in, week out but to me it was a game of football and I needed to win my battle against my opponent. That was my mindset. I don't care if you've scored 50 goals this season, I am going to prepare and study to make sure I give myself the best opportunity to subdue the striker.
While football is a team game, if players don't win their individual battles then the collective suffers.
Tomorrow night, the Northern Ireland defence will come up against one of the most lethal strikers in Europe - Norway's Erling Haaland.
The 20-year-old's goals to games ratio in club football is simply extraordinary. At Red Bull Salzburg he scored 17 goals in 16 appearances while at Borussia Dortmund he appeared 15 times and found the net on 13 occasions.
Haaland scored his first international goal in Norway's 2-1 defeat to Austria on Friday and will be desperate to add to that tally when he wins just his fourth cap at Windsor Park.
While young Daniel Ballard gave a decent account on debut against Romania alongside Craig Cathcart, playing against a striker with such lethal intent as Haaland requires experience and the ability to read the game and know what the forward is going to do before they receive the ball.
Hopefully Jonny Evans will return as Northern Ireland, against world-class opposition, can't afford to be without him.
If a defender simply allows himself to react, he'll be beaten. These guys are too fast and skilful.
Haaland will not be the only threat, Josh King is a proven goalscorer at Premier League level and his pace is his major asset.
Playing in an empty Windsor Park is going to be surreal for the guys, our fans are so important. But since returning, most of them will have played for their clubs behind closed doors and of course on Friday night in Bucharest, so they'll know what to expect.
Preparation will be key to handling the situation.
The Football Association of Ireland deserve to be compensated for the loss of Belfast-born Stephen Mallon.
Mallon opted to play for the Republic under-age teams, received coaching and took the position of a lad from down south. Now he's decided he wants to play for Northern Ireland and switched allegiance.
It is all within the rules and no doubt Mallon will be warmly welcomed into the Northern Ireland camp, if he is ever selected for the senior squad.
But if we are arguing for money when the Republic take one of our players after developing them, then equally they deserve to be compensated when it is the other way around.
Of course, it is only going to be the rare occasion because a player born in the Republic, with no connections to Northern Ireland, can't switch to us. It really only works one way and that is the incredible imbalance in the ruling.
But I'm pleased Mallon has looked at the pathway offered by the Irish FA and realised it's in his interests to offer his services to the country of his birth.
Mark Sykes believes the Republic will give him the best opportunity of playing Premier League football, but if you are not in the team, due to stronger competition, how can you get noticed?
I only signed for West Brom because of my performances on the international stage as they could see I could perform at a high level.
Young Mallon obviously has the same mindset.
I know I shouldn't be surprised but even I was shocked to learn that the Republic of Ireland Under-21 team had precedent over the Northern Ireland senior squad at Windsor Park.
Ian Baraclough's boys trained at Windsor Park on Tuesday in preparation for Friday night's match against Romania in Bucharest.
But on Wednesday they were sent packing to Stormont playing field, which I understand was like a bog due to all the heavy rain.
The reason? The Republic Under-21s were in town and had arranged a friendly with Linfield.
I know the Blues share the ground with the Irish FA but surely during an international window, the international stadium must be reserved only for the international team. If Baraclough decides the best place to train is Windsor Park, then it must always be made available to him.
It's a complete shambles, an embarrassment - but why am I not surprised?
After all Stuart Dallas has gone through to get to the Premier League, he deserves to be playing in front of a packed and passionate Anfield when he makes his top-flight debut for Leeds on Saturday.
Alas, with Covid-19 restrictions, the game will be played behind closed doors. But knowing Stu, he will relish the experience and thrive on the pitch as taking on the champions in your first game is pretty special.
It also says something that despite being close to the greatest day in his club career, he is giving his all for his country.