Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Mick McCarthy has made it clear to Leon Clarke that he still sees him as a big part of the club's future, despite being nosed down the strikers' pecking order.
Even after the departure of Tomasz Frankowski on a year-long loan to Tenerife, home-grown product Clarke is still no nearer the front of the queue for one of the two strikers' shirts under McCarthy than he was under Glenn Hoddle.
The summer arrival of Jay Bothroyd and Craig Davies has intensified the battle for frontline places and, although Carl Cort was banned for three matches, Clarke got to start only one of them - the 1-0 win at Burnley ten days ago.
But, despite making more of an impact as a second-half substitute at Saltergate last week in crashing home one of Wolves' penalties in the Carling Cup spot-kick shoot-out defeat to Chesterfield, he was dropped on Saturday to allow Cort to return.
"Leon Clarke didn't do anything wrong," McCarthy said. "I just thought Corty was hungry for it having missed three games and I hoped him coming back would give me something else, which it did. He and Jemal Johnson didn't do too badly together."
Now the Wolves manager has the additional problem of how to slot back in Bothroyd, assuming this week's international break helps his calf strain to heal in time for the match at Leeds on Sunday week.
It leaves McCarthy with the 'nice problem' of how to keep too many hungry strikers happy.
And, by stopping Clarke going straight down the tunnel on Saturday and telling him to go and applaud the fans after his four-minute substitute appearance, he delivered an important message to all his fringe players.
"Clarkie's been on for four minutes and thinks he's not really been involved and that it's a kind of embarrassment to go and clap the fans," McCarthy said.
"It's like 'those lads have really done it and I want to just get off up the tunnel'.
"I know all about that. I was sub on my first competitive appearance for the Republic of Ireland when we beat Russia 1-0 and I felt like a spare one at a wedding.
"I hadn't contributed, I hadn't been involved and everyone's loving it, buoyant and bubbly, and you're sat there thinking 'what have I done'.
"But you should all enjoy the victories because things can change. I just said to Leon 'Enjoy it, be part of it'.
"It's important because the fans are the lifeblood of every single football club and we should show our appreciation to them." n Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has revealed that Sammy Bangoura still has a long way to go before he will feature in the first team.
The 24-year-old Guinea striker went awol during the summer and failed to report for pre-season training.
He returned at the beginning of August citing family reasons for his absence but Pulis is not prepared to put him in the starting XI out of respect for the other players.
"Even if he was fit enough, to put him straight back into the first team without playing in the reserves first wouldn't have been fair on the other lads," Pulis said.