Aston Villa left back Wilfred Bouma has had a frustrating start to life under Martin O'Neill.
Sidelined for the first two months of this season initially with a calf injury, and then simply through the manager's preference for using skipper Gareth Barry in his position, it was not until extra time in the Carling Cup win at Leicester that he saw action for the first time.
But, after being recalled for his first start of the campaign at Liverpool the following Saturday, only to be part of a Villa team three down at the break, and then go through the experience of getting battered in the next round of the Carling Cup at Stamford Bridge, he has now settled back into the first team.
"The first couple of months this season were hard for me," said Bouma. "I started with the injury, but I worked hard and now I am just glad to be in the team and getting the chance to continue this run."
It will have done Bouma no harm to be part of a Villa defence who have now not conceded a Premiership goal since Liverpool hit them with those three goals in the final 15 minutes of the first half at Anfield three weeks ago. And he received another examination yesterday from the pacy Gary Teale and his second-half replacement David Cotterill.
"I knew they were both very fast and that it would a good test for me," he said. "We came here looking to win but right from the beginning, that looked a tough ask. And Thomas Sorensen had to make a great save.
"We were put under a lot of pressure, but we just look to get as many clean sheets as possible and were pleased to get something out of it after working so hard."
Although missing out on the chance to go third in the table, Villa now have two good opportunities to stay upwardly mobile with two winnable home games in the space of four days against Middlesbrough and Manchester City. But Bouma is not getting carried away.
"Looking at some of the results over the last couple of weeks anything is possible," he said. "But it will certainly give us great self belief playing in front of our own crowd again."