Fabian Delph could be forgiven for being a man in a hurry after a serious knee injury delayed his plan of establishing himself on the Premier League stage.
Just as he was hoping to make an impression in claret and blue, the Aston Villa midfielder was knocked out of his stride by a severe training ground injury.
It seemed innocuous at the time, getting his studs caught in the turf as he tried to escape the attentions of Emile Heskey during a practice match at Bodymoor Heath back in April last year. However, some 18 months on, he is only just feeling his way back into top flight football and after costly false starts last season he now appreciates that only fools rush in.
Delph admits playing in the 2-1 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur last December was a mistake. Although he completed most of the match, it was too soon.
If he didn’t know that then he certainly did in the following game when he came on as a substitute in a 4-0 defeat at Manchester City and sustained another injury. Subsequently, he was restricted to bit part roles under Gerard Houllier for the remainder of the campaign, often in the unfamiliar left-back position.
“I’d only trained for six sessions,” recalls Delph. “Ideally, I’d have been looking at six weeks of hard training and a reserve game.
“I’m old enough and big enough to have said I didn’t want to play in that Tottenham game but I felt I could and I managed to play for about 75 minutes, even though I was off the pace after being out for so long.
“A few days later I went on against Manchester City early in the second half after we had gone 4-0 down. I managed to pick up another injury in that game so I was out again.”
Fast forward to the start of this season and Delph has just completed his longest run in the claret and blue first team since his £6 million move from Leeds United in August 2009.
Only an untimely virus ended his ever-present Premier League sequence of eight games last weekend when he was forced to miss the 2-1 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion.
The 21-year-old made a quick recovery and was back in full training on Monday and staking an instant claim for a recall for Saturday’s trip to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
However, Delph knows from bitter experience not to get ahead of himself and to listen more intently to his body. “It’s a great feeling to be trusted to play in every game,” he explains.
“Last season was difficult because I was injured for the majority of the time and the season before I never really featured. I want to play every game but because of my injury one game a week is the best thing for me at the moment.
“Hopefully in the near future I will be able to play more. The manager is very thoughtful. He understands that someone who has an injury like mine can’t afford to play two games a week at this point. I feel very fit, which is down to the manager and our fitness coach Adrian Lamb.
“But I need to be more influential, create more and be more effective. It’s my first run of games in the Premier League and hopefully I can push on and become stronger.
“I’d like to think there’s more to come from me. I’m a big believer in improving my game. I’m fit now and I still work on it for most of the day.
“I usually do a morning session on my legs, then train, then do some more work on my left leg in the afternoon. Since I got fit I’ve felt the need to do more and more.
“It hasn’t been a case of taking one foot off the pedal. It only takes a couple of hours but it makes a massive difference.”