Far from being the best defender likely to be on special offer during the January sales, Matthew Upson has been told by Eric Black he must first prove he's the best at Birmingham City.
After watching the centre back come through a specially arranged first team versus reserves match at Wast Hills the assistant manager outlined the selection problem facing Steve Bruce when Upson finally comes back into contention.
The former Arsenal man has been out of action since February when he was withdrawn with a leg injury in a Premiership match against his old side.
That kept him out for a couple of months but when he returned he damaged his Achilles in the pre-match warm up ahead of April's derby defeat to Aston Villa. He has not featured since.
But Upson has now played three games in his comeback and is on the brink of challenging for a return to competitive action.
However, first he must dislodge incumbents Radhi Jaidi and Martin Taylor who have presided over five clean sheets in the last six games and who look virtually impenetrable as a partnership.
"The manager will pick the best team available as he always does," said Black. "Those that play will be there on merit and I don't see him changing that.
"To have competition for places is great, but if they continue the way they have been there are no reasons to change things.
"Matt played the full 90 minutes in a practice game and looked very comfortable and you can see what a quality of footballer he is.
"Of course he will be pushing to get back into the team very soon, but with the defence performing so well and keeping so many clean sheets, it's a difficult problem for the manager."
Despite his inactivity, Upson is still the subject of speculation that he will leave the club when the transfer window opens with Liverpool identified as a possible destination. Newcastle are also thought to be interested.
Even Birmingham consider his continued presence at the club unlikely with co-owner David Sullivan last week admitting it will be difficult to hold on to a player who has won seven England caps and who has his sights on stepping back up to the Premiership as soon as possible.
"There will be some players leaving in January," Sullivan said. "Matthew Upson is a great player, but he wants to go to a bigger club."
One player who's future remains at St Andrew's is midfielder Damien Johnson who is looking at making his own comeback from injury.
The Ulsterman had his jaw broken in a clash with Paul Robinson earlier this month during his side's 2-0 victory over Albion and had to have his mouth wired and eat through a straw. Robinson was banned for three matches.
Bruce was furious and accused Robinson of purposefully trying to hurt his captain. But Bruce will no doubt be placated by news that the Northern Ireland international could be back by Christmas.
Bruce has also defended the contribution of Cameron Jerome despite the fact he has substituted the 20-year-old in each of the last seven games.
Jerome, who joined for #3 million in the summer, has scored just one league goal so far but Bruce has urged him to stay patient.
"Cameron's contribution to the team is enormous," he said. "I know he's a bit frustrated that he hasn't scored. He's had chances but hasn't taken them.
"All we have to keep saying to him is that the good ones keep getting there into threatening positions. If you don't get there then that's a problem.
"Although it was a different league, there were times last season when my strikers were nowhere near getting a goal."