Having doggedly avoided the sack two months ago, Steve Bruce today finds himself in a position of relative luxury. His young Birmingham City team are at the top of the Coca-Cola Championship and, in his measured view, "the best is yet is to come".
Bruce boasts, in Nicklas Bendtner and Gary McShef-frey, two of the top five players outside the Premiership and today, much to his own private pleasure, he began his sixth year as manager of a club that puts a high value on loyalty.
But while the manager could be forgiven if he feels a sense of personal vindication, he is no more comfortable now than at any point in his five years as the manager.
That is partly because he is a realist but mainly because he knows how quickly a strong squad, particularly a group of strikers, can be decimated in an instant.
"A manager is only as good as his strikers," Bruce said. "The past has shown it to me, that's for sure. And I wish Nicklas Bendtner was ours, I really do."
Bendtner, the Denmark international striker, is on loan with Birmingham for the season and will return to Arsenal in the summer. He is a teenager and, according to one former Birmingham player, "good enough for Real Madrid".
Only if Birmingham are promoted to the Premiership, and Arsenal see him as being surplus to requirements, could the player move to St Andrew's on a long-term basis.
For now, however, this is a Premiership team in the making and Bruce has vowed to ensure that, if Birmingham do reclaim their lost horizon, there will be none of the mistakes of the past two seasons.
Birmingham underachieved in 2004-05 because of injuries to their strikers and they endured relegation the season after because Bruce was unable to make the appropriate replacements.
Walter Pandiani had failed, Clinton Morrison was sold too early, Emile Heskey was in temporary decline, Mikael Forssell was recovering from a knee injury, Chris Sutton was injured, and Dudley Campbell was still finding his feet.
So when Birmingham returned to the Football League, Bruce decided to build from the front. Bendtner arrived on August 4; McSheffrey four weeks later.
Even if there was that dip in autumn, when Birmingham lost 1-0 at home to Norwich City and Bruce feared for his job, there was always the likelihood that this team would come together.
"Obviously I would feel even better of Bendtner was ours for good but, overall, I am pleased with the way it has gone," Bruce said. "I am pleased with how quickly the team has settled, because I ripped it all up in the summer and started again. Now there is a young freshness about the place.
"It is good because I believe that we have a team that can only grow together and get better." And at last, here we have a Birmingham team that scores goals, just as Bruce is reviving his reputation for signing the right players at the right time.
Birmingham would not have gained promotion to the Premiership in 2002 had Bruce not signed Stern John from Nottingham Forest and they would not have avoided relegation in 2003 had they not signed Christophe Dugarry on loan.
Chris Sutton, now flourishing with Aston Villa, was supposed to be Bruce's talisman of 2006 but injuries intervened. Birmingham would have avoided relegation last spring if Sutton had avoided injury.
Remember when Birmingham thrashed Portsmouth 5-0 in January 2006? Who would have believed that Portsmouth would avoid relegation three months later and Birmingham would go down instead?
It was the lack of strikers that hurt Birmingham, just as the availability of goalscorers aided the team at crucial times in previous years.
"We had Stern John, Dugarry, Mikael Forssell, then Emile Heskey, who had his best year in ten," Bruce said. "But in the end, we did not have enough up front because of injuries to Fors-sell and David Dunn and others.
"It is about the right man at the right time but I think I have had some terrible luck with injuries to strikers. Now, hopefully, we have the right players to get us back into the Premiership."
But if Bruce has quality up front, he does not have quantity. Only Bendtner and Campbell of the senior players could be called "outand-out strikers". McShef-frey is more a utility player who does his best work on the wing or as an advanced midfield player.
Forssell has not played since October 14 because of injury and, in any event, he has only scored four league goals in the past 18 months.
It is likely that Bruce will try to sign a striker when the transfer window opens in two weeks and, given his ability to secure talismanic figures, there is the possibility that the new signing could be an experienced player with a big reputation.
True, Birmingham have scored 12 goals in their past four matches - their best run of goalscoring form under Bruce - but they are only one serious injury away from a crisis up front.
Bruce knows that. And he knows that he cannot go into the second half of the season with Birmingham's fate in the lap of the gods.
The search for a new striker is sure to become intense over the next few days. A latterday Christophe Dugarry is unlikely, given that Birmingham no longer occupy a place in the elite, and given that such players are seldom seen never mind available.
A latterday Stern John is a better bet.