Steve Bruce is convinced Nicky Butt has been the victim of circumstance after a disjointed start to his Birmingham career.
The 30-year-old midfielder arrived on a season-long loan from Newcastle United in the summer, scored a goal on his home debut against Manchester City and showed glimpses of the form that earned him more than 40 England caps.
However, Butt couldn't have envisaged how a kick aimed at Portsmouth's Dario Silva in mid- September would transform his season.
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The former Manchester United midfielder was hit with a three-game ban for his indiscretion, which marred what may have been his best performance of the campaign so far. That was compounded by a further one-match for insulting language to a linesman as he left the pitch.
An injury crisis ensured that Butt was thrown back into the fray immediately on his return and was still searching for his fitness when his travails continued. Bruce contends that his problems have escalated in a manner no-one could have imagined that afternoon in September.
"It's horrible what has happened to Nicky, as he started off really, really well and was very comfortable for us," said Bruce.
"However, look at the situation; he gets himself sent off against Portsmouth on September 17.
"He gets back in the team for three games before he suffers double vision against Everton after just six minutes and then has to come off after 30, because he was really disorientated.
"He then missed the game against Newcastle, because of his loan arrangement. He is now going to be available for the Bolton game next week [November 21], but it will be over two months since that Portsmouth game and he also missed a bit of our preseason, too. You can also add into the equation that, at the back end of last season, he had an injury."
Bruce ensured that both Butt and Mario Melchiot played for an hour in Martin Grainger's testimonial last Wednesday to ensure they are both in the picture for next Monday's crucial game with Bolton at St Andrew's.
Melchhiot will also be appearing for the reserves at Leeds United tonight, as he has started less than half of the first-team fixtures this season.
It looks as though Butt will be spared the long trek to Yorkshire, but Bruce's insistence on playing him last Wednesday means that he is still playing catch-up in the eyes of his manager.
"Until Nicky got sent off against Portsmouth he looked exactly what he is; an England player and he has to start recapturing that form," continued Bruce.
"But you have got to put it in perspective, as it is very difficult to get fitness levels just from playing so he has got to do a lot of hard work, which he is prepared to do.
"We have six weeks off from when we break up in the middle of May and come back in early July. We then have six-and-a-half weeks to get the players ready and, in that time, we usually play six preseason games.
"It is hard if you miss that and it isn't just about being physically fit, it is about getting them 100 per cent right for the games."
Butt himself is tipping Neil Kilkenny to go a long way in the game after impressing in recent matches.
The 19-year-old former Arsenal trainee was one of the few players to earn praise from Bruce after the home defeat to Everton and impressed when given his chance in the starting line-up at Newcastle ten days ago.
Butt said: "Neil is a very talented and gifted footballer. If he is continues what he is doing and carries on listening and learning, I think he can go a long way.
"I think it is daunting to make the step up, but it is also an exciting time and you've got to prove yourself because it's something that you have always wanted.
" When I was coming through as a young lad at Manchester United, there were four or five of us together and that helped but Neil is not a shy lad. He fits in well and he'll do very well."