When a routine knee operation last April revealed more significant damage than expected, Neil Clement effectively wrote off the rest of 2006.
But the West Bromwich Albion defender, who has never allowed his cheerful countenance to fade, even through the bad times, is already back playing for the reserves and could be just a month away from a return to the first-team squad.
Clement, who has not played for Albion since the 3-0 defeat against Newcastle United in the Premiership on April 22, was surprised at the ease with which he performed for the reserve team against Stoke City last Monday.
And, while he would be forgiven if he made great claims about his prospects of making a first-team comeback way ahead of schedule, he is realistic enough to know that the demands of Coca-Cola Championship football are far greater.
Clement believes in deferred gratification and will therefore make his return to the first team at the right time, even if it adds to his frustration. After all, he has not played since the team were in the Premiership and since Bryan Robson was manager.
A lot has changed since then, not least the arrival of Tony Mowbray as the new manager.
"I just want to get a few more games under my belt for the reserves, be banging out 90 minutes pain free, and take it from there," Clement said. "I'm not really setting my sights on anything more than that.
"Otherwise, you just get too disappointed if there is a setback. In my head, I'm thinking around Christmas time but I just want to play the next few games and take it from there."
When Clement went in for his operation last spring, he expected to be fit enough to join his team mates for pre-season training in July. Reality, however, was different.
"The medical people thought I was just going in for a clean-out," Clement said. "Unfortunately, when I woke up, it was worse than they thought. I've been out a long time.
"I'd previously had a good run here, of six or seven years being injury free, so it's been a tough time. But I'm feeling more positive than ever at the moment.
"The gaffer told me to play the 45 minutes on Monday but that if I felt really good to carry on. I was pleasantly surprised how I felt at half-time. I was a bit sore for the last 15. I maybe could have come off then. But it was just great to be out there again."
Mowbray can call upon the services of Paul Robinson, the left back, when Albion play at home to Burnley on Saturday. Robinson has missed the past three matches through suspension after being sent off during the match against Birmingham City last month.
"We've missed his character," Mowbray said. "The character of the team is going to be there for all to see now — and one person who epitomises character, drive and a will to win is Paul. Any team would have missed that. People show passion in different ways.
"The way Paul shows his is through his determination to win every tackle, his drive on the ball and his running off it. The outward desire and determination that Paul shows is something the team will benefit from.
"Hopefully, he'll put behind him what has happened to him over the last few weeks. It's an incentive for him that we haven't gone on a winning streak without him."
Albion striker Stuart Nicholson has joined Bristol Rovers, the Coca-Cola League Two club, on a month's loan.