Getting to know. . . Gregor Zabret
28th December 2016
As part of our Swans Academy content, we speak to an upcoming talent within the youth ranks at the club.
Next in our in-depth interview is under-23s keeper, who talks about his boyhood dreams of playing in the Premier League, making the move to Swansea and being one of a handful of players to fly the flag for Slovenia in British football.
Patience is key for any professional footballer looking to make his mark, especially when you only have one position to fight for.
It's something young Slovenian goalkeeper Gregor Zabret has had to learn since moving from his homeland, aged just 17, in the summer of 2013.
The teenager arrived in Swansea following a successful youth career with top-flight PrivaLiga side Domzale that saw the youngster start 15 games across two seasons between 2011 and 2013.
Interest from European clubs in Spain and Portugal soon followed, but Zabret admits he was determined to follow his dream when a call came from Swansea City.
"I was a football maniac when I was younger," says Zabret, who is now 21.
"I was always watching games from across Europe's top five leagues and trying to pick up any tips I could from watching their style. But it was the Premier League that caught my imagination, I always dreamed of playing for a club there.
"I had had a good two seasons with Domzale's first team in Slovenia. They are a little bit like a Liverpool or Arsenal - a side who always fight for the top three places and have featured in the Champions League and Europa League.
"My experience there at a young age caught the attention of other teams across Europe, but then came interest from Swansea and I knew it was the move I wanted to take."
Zabret signed for Michael Laudrup's Swans in July 2013 and was immediately included in the first-team squad's pre-season tour of Holland.
Injuries meant the young keeper - who was still trying to adapt to life in a new country - was kept within the first-team ranks for the start of the season, with a place on the bench for a handful of Premier League games.
"That was an amazing experience," Zabret says. "I had just arrived at the club as a development player, but I was getting a number of opportunities to train at a first-team level.
"Slovenia is not a country known for producing footballers, so to have the opportunity to be part of a Premier League team was a big thing for me.
"I took a lot from that experience, but looking back now I wish I'd had more of a chance."
Opportunities with the first team slowly dried up during Zabret's debut season as he took up his place with the development squad.
He was part of the side that helped the under-21s lift the Professional Development League 2 title in 2014-15 and played seven games on the way to helping the squad reach the play-offs with a third-placed finish last campaign.
Now in his fourth season with the Swans, Zabret continues to fight for his place and he feels he is doing his chances of progressing no harm.
"I feel I have improved a lot since I first arrived in Swansea," Zabret adds.
"It was hard to live away from home, but I think that only makes you mentally tougher as a person.
"I have a grown up a lot since my first season and I have matured as a person and player both on and off the pitch.
"My goal is still to play first-team football in the Premier League. I am proud to be one of the few Slovenian players to fly the flag for my country."
And his patience could be key to joining what is an exclusive club for his nation.
If Zabret does realise his dream of playing in the Premier League, he would be only the sixth Slovenian national to do so after the likes of Robert Koren (Hull City) and Haris Vučkić (Newcastle United).
After signing a new contract with the club this summer, Zabret has until June 2018 - at least - to make his dream a reality.
"I was very happy to sign a new two-year deal," he says.
"It shows the club still believes in me. I have been very happy with my first three years at Swansea and I want to continue to improve myself whilst fighting for my chance.
"The difficult thing is waiting for the chance to come, if you are not mentally strong and training well, you will never get that chance.
"It is hard in football at times but I am proud I have kept going when things have gone right. From here, I know I need to keep training hard and take this opportunity to prove myself.
"I want to help the under-23s stay top of the league and lift some trophies this season and maybe earn myself a loan move to get some further first-team experience.
"I don't like to think too much into the future, I just want to focus on the here and now because you never know what is going to happen in football."