It took Dean Kiely more than two decades but, on Wednesday night against Plymouth Argyle, he finally made his West Bromwich Albion debut.
"My dad cannot take the grin off his face because he used to bring me over here [to The Hawthorns] training when I was about 12 and I signed schoolboy forms at 14," the goalkeeper said.
But good fortune came to he who waited and Kiely, now 36, cut a contented figure when he relayed the story of how he ended up with Albion, after stints with Coventry City, Ipswich Town, York City, Bury, Charlton Athletic, Portsmouth and Luton Town.
"You ask my dad now and he will reminisce and he will tell you when Nobby Stiles [Albion assistant manager] and Johnny Giles [Albion manager] used to make me feel a million dollars, even I was 13 or 14," Kiely said. "Then when Ron Saunders came [as manager] it changed slightly. I didn't get bombed out but I looked to move on because it just wasn't an enjoyable place and it changed dramatically. But it is a great feeling to be back and I had a great reception from the supporters."
After leaving Albion, Kiely joined Coventry in the month of his 17th birthday, in October 1987. It was the start of a career that took him to the Premiership and, in 2002, to the World Cup as part of the Republic of Ireland squad but Albion means one thing to him: unfinished business.
"It was an easy decision," Kiely said. "There were a few people in a few clubs umming and aahing and West Brom were the decisive ones and said 'come and make a contribution'. It took me seconds to decide.
"I've come here, the manager [Tony Mowbray] wants me to make a contribution, I want to repay the faith he has shown in me and make a contribution and be in the Premier League in May."
Kiely seems to have spent his career either fighting to get into the Premiership or fighting to stay there. The experiences will stand him in good stead for Albion's challenge.
"I went up [to the Premiership] as champions with Charlton," he said. "I've been promoted out of every division, I had the Portsmouth episode when they were in a very precarious position, that was pressurised and a tough stint but I went there, relished that challenge, got through it and was satisfied with that, so the same again. It's a short-term goal, a little sprint to the line, get a bit of momentum and get in the Premier League."
As for international football, he retired in 2004 after making eight appearances with the Republic of Ireland. It was a decision of head over heart and one that has contributed to his longevity. He is 36 going on 30.
"I don't regret retiring from international football," Kiely said. "That's why I am stood here now, fit and well at the age of 36 and have not put a pound of weight on since whenever. I'm fighting fit and that's because I took a professional decision. My heart said, 'stick in there with Ireland and keep turning up and keep going on all the trips and everything'.
"My head told me it is not producing what I want from it — and what I wanted was football. So, with the greatest respect — and I love Shay Given [Ireland goalkeeper] to bits, he is a top man and I love working with him — Ireland produced eight caps in five years.
"That was not enough for me. Mick McCarthy, fair play to him, played strong sides because he wanted his record to be good. When he could have given subs a run-out, he chose not to.
"That is totally his choice and I don't begrudge that at all' but I just had to look at it and make a decision for me. It was a selfish decision but I don't regret it one bit."