Dale Stephens believes he can go from toilet cleaner to playing for England.

Albion's midfield maestro has seen Leicester striker Jamie Vardy rise from a humble non-league upbringing to full England international.

Stephens reckons he can follow suit after loan spells at Hyde United and Droylsden at the beginning of his career when he was on Bury's books.

Stephens told The Argus: "They (Hyde) were Conference North at the time and it was good experience.

"I trained with Bury and just headed over one night a week to train with them and play on the Saturday. I was only there for a short time but it was a good set up and was part of my development.

"I'm not sure how big the crowd was, a man and his dog I think. I don't think I had to wash my kit because I don't think they even had training kit to be honest. But it's a good club - they've had connections with a lot of academies over the years - and I enjoyed every minute.

"Droylsden was very similar. Bury were struggling for form and results and as a young lad it's difficult to break into a team that's struggling. So I realised I needed to go on loan and get a month's worth of football. Thankfully it worked."

Bolton-born Stephens, now starring for Albion in the Premier League after spells at Oldham, Rochdale and Southampton on loan, and Charlton (below), thinks his Vardy-type background has helped him.

The Argus: The 28-year-old said: "It's good to experience it. We've talked about it a lot in the changing room, when you see young lads come from top Premier League teams.

"If it doesn't work out for them they get really disheartened because they are used to the standards of top Premier League clubs and have to drop down to League 1 or League 2 even. They find themselves out of the game in such a short space of time.

"Going into non-league when you're young keeps you hungry. When that's your norm, you enjoy what comes with it when you step up a level.

"The youngsters here now are spoilt, no doubt. I still tell the young lads I used to clean the toilets and seats, and I used to put the goal posts on the crossbar every morning for the first team and for ourselves. It wasn't a glamorous upbringing but I really liked it."

While Albion team-mate Lewis Dunk has been widely touted for an England call-up, Stephens' international aspirations have gone under the radar.

Vardy (below) is an inspiration and, with Gareth Southgate's midfield options in a state of flux following the friendly draws against Germany and Brazil, Stephens has not given up hope of catching the eye of the England boss if his impressive performances alongside Dutch international Davy Propper continue.

The Argus: Stephens said: "His (Vardy) story is such a good story, to come from non-league to do what he's doing now is fantastic. It will only give young boys at any lower league club a belief that if someone else can do it they can do it.

"With England a lot of players now do have opportunities. You look at the last two fixtures. You have to back yourself. I believe I can play that standard of football and if the opportunity arrives I'll snatch it with both hands."

The immediate priority for Stephens is to help Albion stretch their unbeaten run to five games against Stoke at the Amex tonight.

He has been a mainstay under Chris Hughton and has benefited from the manager's belief in his ability and calm style of leadership.

"When he first came in I was injured for a long time and I was really struggling," Stephens said. "It would have been easy for him to play someone else who had been training for months but he put me straight back in. I was very grateful for that and I've never looked back since.

"I think his style suits my game, suits my abilities. We're a good match. I've played a lot of games, gained experience and I'm trying to become a better player."

The Argus: Mark Bowen, assistant to Mark Hughes at Stoke, expressed surprise in the build-up to tonight's clash that Hughton's name is not linked to other jobs like the Everton vacancy. Stephens (above) is baffled as well - but hopes it stays that way.

He said: "I'm not entirely sure why. He (Hughton) goes about his business very, very quietly. He backs his own methods. I'm not too fussed that he isn't being linked and I'm sure the fans feel the same! He's a very humble guy and not the type to hawk himself around.

"You see a lot of managers like the Klopps and Guardiolas of this world get a lot of attention because of the personalities that they are - that's part and parcel of the man of who he is. But I'm sure he won't be too fussed by it.

"He's been a massive part of what we've achieved. When he first came in we were struggling down the bottom end of the (Championship) table. He came in and steadied it and he's not changed much since that first six months he was here.

"A lot of his coaching style has remained the same and it gives us a lot of consistency throughout the squad. I'm sure the chairman will be happy his name isn't being bandied around. At the moment it looks such a good match because we're sitting nicely in the Premier League."

Albion's only defeat in the last six matches was against Arsenal at the Emirates and they are currently sitting above several well-established Premier League clubs, including Stoke.

"We've gathered confidence and belief the more we've played," said Stephens. "We've played some good football too and we're in a good place.

"It's another tough game. They aren't the Stoke of old where they were in your face, they try and play. But they are around us and I think they'll be around us all season so it's a massive game for both teams.

"It's a given that everyone wants to stay in this league at first. I don't think we'll be looking at the position we've been in. There's a long way to go. We are just looking at points we can pick up over the next block of games and that's all we can focus on."