DUBLINER Mark Yeates has packed a lot into a career in the English game which is now in its tenth season – but the Tallaght lad believes that winning promotion to the Premier League with Watford this weekend will top the lot.
Yeates (28) has already played in England's top flight alongside Robbie Keane (with Tottenham), has played for Ireland at every level bar senior and helped an unfancied Colchester side get promoted to the Championship.
But now Yeates and his side, already guaranteed a place in the play-offs, still have automatic promotion in their sights, as they can go straight up to the top flight tomorrow, if Watford beat Leeds and if Hull City drop points against the already-promoted Cardiff City.
"For me to get into the Premier with this Watford side would top anything I have ever done before, it's the best league in the world and to think that we're possibly 90 minutes away is a great feeling," Yeates told The Herald.
"I've had good times in my career, I won promotion to the Championship with Colchester – and anyone who's played football will tell you that any promotion is a great achievement.
"But to be part of a Watford side, under a great manager like Gianfranco Zola, and get into the Premier League would be something to look back on with pride and getting back to the Premier League would be the best thing to happen in my career."
Yeates is one of the most experienced (and most-travelled) uncapped Irish players around the higher leagues in England: including loan spells he's played for nine clubs with more than 300 league games on his CV.
Brought to Watford in 2011 from Sheffield United, his time with the Hornets was initially very promising but earlier this season things were looking bleak and it appeared Yeates was on his way out during the January transfer window, as players like him struggled to get games in the face of competition from the glut of Italian imports.
"I had played in the first half of the season, started in the majority of games but there was interest from other clubs in January, and clubs did speak to Watford," he says. "In the end the move didn't come off and then I was out of the team at Watford for seven or eight games but I got back in, I've played in a lot of the matches recently," added Yeates.
Out of contract at the end of this season, Yeates knows his future is up in the air, but if promotion is achieved and he's offered a new deal, he'd be keen to stay on at Vicarage Road.
"I have started 20-odd games, and been involved a lot so if we do go up I'd like to think the owners will reward at least some of the players who got us up, I have loved my time here.
"Playing for a manager like Zola is just great for me, you learn so much from him every day and we're an attack-minded team with a manager who encourages you to get the ball down, I'd love to stay here," he added, the focus now on tomorrow's game with Leeds.
"Saturday is a massive game for us. We've had an up and down sort of few weeks, we had good wins in our last two games but we had a dodgy spell before that (Watford won just once in seven games)," he says.
"I think everyone at the top of the division has been doing the same, Hull had a few bad results as well. Last week was great for us, we beat Leicester on the Friday and on the Saturday Hull missed their chance when they lost to Barnsley.
"Clubs tend to do that at the end of the season, over the last few weeks everyone in the top six has been putting out some bad form and poor results, it's nerves at this stage of the season.
"It's also the case that you are playing teams down at the bottom who are fighting for their lives, like Barnsley winning against Hull, it's so tight down at the bottom and this is a very close league, on any given day there's not much between the top team and the clubs who are in the relegation zone.
"All we can do is try to beat Leeds tomorrow and hope that Hull slip up again. Heading into the final day of the season we have a chance of automatic promotion.
"If you'd asked anyone at our club at the start of the season if they'd have been happy with that they'd have bitten your hand off."