There was a time when Liam Ridgewell was seen as everybody's ready symbol of an error-prone defender, but not any more. Not after his impressive display for Aston Villa at Arsenal on Saturday that helped to ensure a 1-1 draw.
Ridgewell, the 22-year-old defender who once gave away four penalties in a month, exemplified Villa's performance as the team kick-started the Martin O'Neill era with a result that pleased supporters and delighted neutrals all over the country.
Ridgewell was the first among equals; a centre-back who was as dominant in the air as he was quick on the floor.
He complemented Olof Mellberg, the Villa goalscorer, and helped to ensure a frustrating afternoon for Arsenal.
Aaron Hughes, the Villa right-back, whose task was made more difficult on Saturday when Theo Walcott emerged as a late substitute for Arsenal, has watched Ridgewell develop over the past year and is delighting at the centre-back's development.
"Everyone at the club knows how good Ridge is," Hughes said. "There are a lot of young players at Aston Villa, and a lot of good young players in the Premiership, and Ridge is among them. He defended well against Arsenal and he proved himself against one of the best teams there is.
"It was a solid defensive performance, not just from the defenders, but from the midfielders, too. What was most important was how we all worked hard for each other."
To be fair, Ridgewell was starting to make progress during the second half of last season, but he, more than anyone at Villa Park, needed a change of manager. David O'Leary's style did not inspire confidence but O'Neill's style, more inclusive and less negative, appears to have given Ridgewell a new lease of life.
Suddenly, with Martin Laursen now fit again, and Ridgewell in this form, the need for a new centre-back is not as great as it was a week ago.
Overall, the Villa players were doing their best to emphasise O'Neill's qualities without disparaging O'Leary. It was like walking a tightrope but Hughes, for one, managed it.
"We worked really hard against Arsenal but we always knew we had to," Hughes said. "With a new manager coming in, we know that this is a new opportunity for everyone at the club. I think everyone feels that this is a new era; a chance to make progress. This is a time of change but that is a good thing.
"The boss has come in and told us to go and play, to express ourselves and give it everything we have got. If we do that every time we step onto the pitch, then there is enough quality in the side that we can go places."
When Walcott finally emerged, Hughes's assignment became more difficult.
Walcott, an unused substitute in all of England's matches at the World Cup finals, dictated Arsenal's pace of play for the final 17 minutes and he created the equaliser for Gilberto Silva.
"Theo is one of those kids who has a lot of potential," Hughes said. "He has a lot of pace and is very sharp with it, he turns very quickly. He is young, and I think he is going to hurt defences up and down the country."
But this was the type of match that Villa would have lost last season. There did not seem to be the same unity, the same level of fortitude, and O'Neill seems to have instilled belief among players who finished 16th last season with Villa's lowest points tally in Premiership history.
"We had a bad season last time, we know that," Hughes said. "But we think we have the players to do much better this time around. There is definitely a lot of optimism about."