AS a teenager, Scott Malone had a loan spell in Budapest that included being forced to flee the pitch as riot police attempted to quell trouble between supporters.
Such an eye-opening experience means any booing today on his return to former club Bournemouth is unlikely to faze the Huddersfield Town left-back.
“Hungary was an interesting experience,” said the 26-year-old when asked by The Yorkshire Post about the three months he spent with Újpest during 2009 as part of a newly-forged link-up between his then club Wolverhampton Wanderers and the one-time European Cup semi-finalists.
“It was an important stage of my career. I was really young, having just turned professional, to be honest, and put on a plane.
“I met two West Ham lads already out there, was given some car keys and told, ‘Get on with it’. I hadn’t lived away from home up to then so it was a big learning curve in my career.
“Not only did I have to get used to looking after myself, but adapt to the football as well.”
Malone, an Academy product at Molineux, helped Újpest qualify for the Europa League during an eight-game stint that included his one and only goal for the club in a derby against Honved.
“Things could get a bit crazy,” added the Terriers defender with a smile. “I remember the fans being on the fences every game, their shirts off, while flares were allowed in the grounds and horns were going off in the crowd.
“Some in the crowd weren’t even watching the match. There was also one game towards the end of the season when riot police were on the pitch along with the dogs. People had to run down the tunnel. It was crazy, but a real experience to be part of.”
After coming through such a baptism of fire during his first steps in senior football, Malone was ready for anything in a career that went on to include a season at Bournemouth and an exit that may well lead to the left-back incurring the wrath of the locals this afternoon.
Perhaps understandably, Malone wanted to keep his counsel on that departure from Dean Court to Millwall in the summer of 2012. “I didn’t talk about it then and I don’t really want to now,” he said.
But the left-back is likely to face a similar reception today to the one he was given by visiting Cherries fans at The Den on the final day of the 2013-14 season when presented with the Lions’ Player of the Year runner-up trophy.
For his part, Malone remains fond of a club where he netted six times in 37 appearances. “I have nothing but admiration for Bournemouth,” he added. “They are an established top-flight team, I had loads of good times and enjoyed playing for them.
“I moved because it felt the right thing to do. I went to the Championship and wanted to progress.
“You can’t have regrets in football. You have to do what is right for you at the time. I don’t regret anything I have done, what I did was for the right reasons. I am here now in the Premier League so must have done something right.”
Malone’s half dozen goals in a Bournemouth shirt included one against Huddersfield on Easter Monday in a 2-0 victory that effectively ended any hopes Simon Grayson’s side had of finishing in the automatic promotion places.
Town did, though, go on to triumph in the play-offs seven weeks later as the Cherries finished 11th. Malone left the south coast that summer for the Championship and he admits the chance of returning to Dean Court for a top-flight fixture was a long way from his thoughts.
The £5m summer arrival from Fulham added: “It never crossed my mind when I left that one day I would play against them in the Premier League. I left wanting to be a Premier League player and I am now one. Bournemouth are a Premier League club, too, and I think that is great.
“I joined after the really tough times Bournemouth had (when the club was hit with swingeing points deductions twice in as many seasons) and left before they kicked on. Good timing, eh?
“The club was a lot more stable when I joined and then later got the Russian investment. But I joined when we were in League One and my best memories are of scoring goals.
“I was happy down there, it is a great place and the style of football we played was enjoyable. It suited me. We won quite a fair few games as well.”
Malone is the first to admit Town fans are yet to see the best of him in the club’s colours. Today is set to be only the third start in the league for someone who tore Huddersfield apart in the final weeks of last season when Fulham triumphed 4-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Few there that afternoon would have put money on the Terriers being in the top flight come August rather than the in-form Cottagers, but they are and Malone is desperate to stay there.
“I think you do appreciate it more when you have had to work as hard as I have to be a Premier League player,” he added.
“I played in every division, put a lot of games in and went through a lot of clubs – something like eight or nine.
“It has been the long route, but I am still young at 26 and want to help Huddersfield. Bournemouth have shown that clubs can hang around after promotion. Burnley are the same. They are sixth at the moment in their second season.
“Teams that come up can handle this division if they work hard, have a good team spirit and a good boss behind you with the right ideas.”