Former Port Vale star Chris Birchall says he is living the American dream after swapping League One for David Beckham's LA Galaxy.
The 25-year-old's career has rocketed back into orbit since joining Galaxy from Brighton in the summer on a four-year deal.
During a whirlwind five months the midfielder, from Stone, has faced European giants AC Milan and Barcelona, won a league championship and played in a major cup final.
"I couldn't have asked for more," beamed Birchall talking from his Newcastle base.
"I went over there in July and my goal was to break into the Galaxy team.
"I don't think I could have done much better because I went there halfway through the MLS season with the task of trying to get into a winning team.
"It was pleasing because in my first four weeks I had to do my own mini pre-season to get to the same level as the other guys who were winning week in, week out."
After boosting his fitness levels, Birchall played mostly in central midfield, but also spent time on the right flank.
He made his Major League Soccer (MLS) debut replacing Beckham in Galaxy's 3-1 win at the New York Red Bulls, on July 16, before arriving from the bench in their 2-2 friendly draw against Milan three days later.
His first start saw the Trinidad and Tobago international line up against world stars like Lionel Messi and Daniel Alves in Galaxy's 2-1 defeat by Barcelona on August 1.
While Birchall knows all about playing on the big stage, having represented Trinidad at the World Cup in 2006, it was still quite an experience playing in front of 93,137 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
"It's one of those games you feel is going to be really enjoyable, but when they are passing it around for fun it can become frustrating, but you have to take the positives from the game," Birchall reflects.
"I've never suffered from nerves and I look forward to playing against those sort of teams.
"It was nice to feel part of the team, part of the MLS and to introduce myself to my team-mates."
Galaxy wanted to sign Birchall in April, but the move was delayed by Brighton who refused to release him from the final few weeks of his short-term contract.
Their stubbornness meant he was barred from playing for Galaxy until the MLS transfer window reopened on July 15.
But there was still plenty of time for Birchall to play his part in helping Galaxy top the Western division, which won them a ticket to the season-ending play-offs.
Galaxy swept to the final thanks to their two-legged semi-final win over Chivas USA before they claimed the Western Conference Championship title with a 2-0 victory over Houston Dynamo.
But they ultimately fell at the final hurdle in November's MLS Cup final where they suffered an agonising 5-4 penalties defeat by Red Salt Lake after the game ended 1-1.
Birchall took up a holding central midfield role in the final before being substituted on 79 minutes.
Despite his achievements, Birchall would readily admit he isn't the most famous English midfielder to be based with the Californian outfit.
That status undoubtedly belongs to Beckham, the former Manchester United midfielder and England international who has made Birchall feel right at home in the sunshine state.
"I can't speak highly enough of Becks because he has been great with me," said Birchall who moved to LA with his partner Lucy Mulroy and their young son Ashley.
"It's been great because with us both being English it gives us something in common and we talk about things that are going on over here.
"You don't expect such a high profile person to take an interest in you, to ask you how you're feeling and how your boy is doing.
"He is so down-to-earth especially when you consider how much pressure he is under with all the media scrutiny.
"It's different for him because he gets so much hassle, but he takes it in his stride.
"We've been out on a couple of team nights and I've got to know him.
"The English banter also helps, which the American guys don't understand.
"David and myself say things differently to how Americans do, and vice-versa, so the mickey-taking goes on all the time."
Birchall witnessed the intense media scrutiny which swirls around 'Planet Beckham' when the England star was barracked by a section of Galaxy fans after returning from his five-month loan spell at AC Milan.
The bad feeling spilled over in Beckham's first home game after arriving back from Italy, which by chance coincided with Galaxy's draw with Milan.
As Birchall watched on, Beckham made international headlines by confronting a section of irate supporters who felt short-changed by his voluntary absence.
"Dave faced some negativity for three or four games when he came back from Milan," said Birchall.
"But it wasn't personal, it was because they didn't understand what was going on with the loan deal.
"He came back in July for the last three months of the season and the fans expressed their feelings because they didn't agree with it.
"But it wasn't because they didn't like Dave – they love him for his performances and his mental toughness.
"It was tough for him because people were booing when he felt he was doing a good job for the club, and he went to Milan to increase his chances of playing for England.
"But I also can understand why the fans reacted that way."
Birchall hit nine goals in 91 Vale appearances between 2001 and 2006.
His exploits playing at the World Cup earned him a £325,000 move to Championship side Coventry in August 2006, when he was snapped up by current Valiants boss Micky Adams.
Adams, meanwhile, has allowed Birchall to train with his squad on his return from America to help him prepare for the new MLS season.
Birchall said: "To be honest I think a few people got carried away with our results against Barca and Milan and thought we could maybe compete with lesser Premier League teams.
"But I think we could definitely compete at Championship level especially with how the lads performed in the second half of the season.
"Whether we'd finish in the top half the division, I don't know.
"The pace is fast and furious like it is in the Championship and it is of a similar standard, but it's difficult to compare the two.
"When I went out there I was under the illusion the game would be played at a slower pace, giving you more time on the ball.
"But that isn't the case because the players out there are so athletic.
"Clubs outside the Premier League, or the top of the Championship, haven't got the money they used to and more players may want to test themselves in the MLS.
"Speaking to people at Galaxy they say a lot of players used to go over there at the end of their careers.
"But if players think it is going to be easy they will have problems especially as they will have to be very fit."