Progress is key for Kingsley
15th July 2016
Stephen Kingsley has not forgotten 'phoning home' after discovering he was starting for Swansea City at Arsenal last spring.
"I called my family to tell them I was playing," he recalls with a smile, "but they thought it was a joke."
The Kingsleys were not the only ones who were surprised by the team Francesco Guidolin picked to play at the Emirates back in March.
The Swans were in the midst of a relegation battle, while their hosts were serious contenders to win the Premier League.
Yet with fixtures coming thick and fast - and a number of key relegation battles to come immediately after Arsenal - Guidolin made six changes to his starting side.
Kingsley was one of the fringe figures given a chance as his boss shuffled his pack.
The Swans pulled off a memorable 2-1 win that night, and Kingsley has hardly looked back.
"I found out I was starting at Arsenal the day before the game," said Kingsley from the club's American training camp.
"Dave Adams gave me the shout that I was playing, then we had a meeting just before the game about the players we would be up against.
"(Alexis) Sanchez was playing - they were all playing. Arsenal were going for the title.
"Of course there were nerves, but I think the first-team football I had played before helped me deal with them.
"It was something I had worked really hard for, and there was so much adrenaline going through my body that it carried me through."
Kingsley could not have asked for more than an away victory at Arsenal to mark his Premier League debut.
And the good times did not stop there.
There would be three more top-flight appearances before the season drew to a close, against Aston Villa, West Ham and Manchester City, and Kingsley is still to suffer league defeat in a Swans shirt.
International recognition soon followed, as Stirling-born Kingsley won his first senior Scotland cap against France in June.
And next on the agenda was the new four-year contract which the former Falkirk player signed earlier this month.
"It's been chaotic," acknowledges Kingsley, who played 45 minutes of yesterday's 4-0 friendly win over Charlotte Independence. "Everything has happened in the space of six months.
"After Arsenal, West Ham away was another great experience, and so was Manchester City.
"For me it is just about trying to show the fans and the management staff what I'm capable of.
"Hopefully I can kick on this season and get some more experiences like the ones I had at the end of last season.
"Anything that happens at international level is a bonus - my focus is on Swansea. If that leads to international games, then brilliant - I will try to grab the opportunity with both hands.
"It did happen for me at the end of last season and it was an honour to play against France.
"That was another great experience - the preparation, the game itself, coming on as a substitute and the feelings you have afterwards. It's something I will never forget."
If Kingsley starts the new season in the same sort of form in which he finished the last, more Scotland caps are likely to follow.
And, more importantly, there should be further opportunities to shine in club colours.
Having made his Falkirk debut at the age of 16, Kingsley had more than 100 senior appearances under his belt by the time he moved to Wales in 2014.
Loan spells at Yeovil and Crewe gave him further tastes of first-team football before he made the breakthrough in SA1.
"Having that experience of playing men's football before stood me in good stead when I got a chance here," he says.
"I think that experience helped me concentrate on playing my best football, rather than getting swallowed up by the occasion.
"But it's a new season and I have to start again now. I have put a lot of hard work in over the last two years to get this far, but it's going to be even harder to prove myself this year.
"Hopefully this is just the start. I have made four Premier League appearances and I am looking to make many more, so it's a big pre-season for me."
Stockier and more powerfully built than when he first arrived from his homeland, Kingsley is mentally stronger too.
The fact that Guidolin was prepared to pitch him into action against Arsenal gave the left-back a significant confidence boost.
Kingsley describes his new contract as "the icing on the cake" after the most dramatic spell of his young career.
The plan now is to repay the faith the Swans have shown in him - and to impress the family.
"There was no time for anyone to get to the Arsenal game, but my mum and dad came down for the Manchester City game," Kingsley says.
"That was really nice because they have not seen me play since I was at Falkirk.
"Hopefully they may have to come down a bit more often this season."