The League One play-off final at Wembley tomorrow will be worth watching, with ex-Glenavon midfielder Mark Sykes playing for Oxford United and former Linfield winger Paul Smyth on loan at Wycombe Wanderers from QPR.
Like me, they went from the Irish League to English football, and it got me thinking about what it takes to make it as a professional footballer in what I believe is the most ruthless occupation in the world.
Football may be a team game, but it is one selfish sport and you have to be prepared to do pretty much anything to get ahead or stay ahead because there are hundreds of people who want your job.
When I started out at Lincoln after moving from Coleraine, I could see the difference in mentality right away.
In the lower leagues in England, players are fighting like anything to get a move to the Championship or Premier League because they know the rewards are massive. They are also desperate to get a win bonus because it makes such a difference to their pay packet and their lives.
I have seen kids on good money come to play at lower league level on loan from Premier League clubs without a care in the world and be eaten up by the harshness and hunger of the environment and end up out of the game.
I think for the lads who come over from Northern Ireland, it is a real eye-opener how cut-throat it is. I have found over the years that our lads are too nice and they don't want to be that way.
In England, it is cut-throat for kids from a young age. What happens is that clubs will bring six, seven or eight-year-olds in for six to eight weeks and give them kit and, all of a sudden, the parents think their kid is a footballer.
The majority of those kids are shipped out, though, and just a few are kept on.
That ruthlessness starts then. It really does, and it continues through the ranks and, when you reach professional level, it heats up far more in terms of people wanting your job.
Stuart Dallas will have seen it in his time in England since leaving Crusaders for Brentford.
He has progressed and progressed and is about to step into the Premier League with Leeds United, which is fantastic. Seeing how he has developed has been brilliant but it has taken him time.
Now I would say he is the template for all Irish League footballers with ambitions to follow.
For Sykes and Smyth, when they are in the Northern Ireland squad they should be asking Stuart questions and picking his brain. He is about to go to the Premier League and, from his performances at international level and for Leeds, he will go to the top flight with belief that he belongs.
That is so important because the scrutiny is about to go tenfold.
In the Premier League, you can't get away from it on TV, in the papers or on your phone. Knowing Stuarty, he will handle all of that.
For others like Stuart, they have to do the right things, and that means making big sacrifices, learning every day from coaches, playing games to learn and when you get in the team, learning to stay there because there will be kids in the youth team who want your place, people outside the club who want your place and agents pushing players into your place.
It is a mad, mad business to be involved in, and you need talent, a strong work ethic, a thick skin and to be level-headed with your own thoughts. You can't let the madness get to you.
I know players in the lower levels in England who get really upset if they get a five out of 10 mark in the paper. If there is one critique that you should listen to, it should be your coaches and players around you. Believe me, that can be ruthless enough!
Being a professional footballer is the best job in the world, but my message to players from Northern Ireland with hopes of making it is you have to be prepared to handle everything that comes your way.