Southampton forward Jake Hesketh is in optimistic spirit after completing his recovery from a long-term ankle injury on Monday night.
After breaking into the first-team squad at the beginning of this season, the 20-year-old has not featured since September, but returned to action for the Saints under-23s last night as they were beaten 2-0 by Everton.
Fit again at last
In the early stages of the campaign, it looked as if Hesketh was set to be the next star to come out of the famous Southampton Academy.
The young attacker stole the show on his first start of the season in the EFL Cup against Crystal Palace, putting in a man of the match performance and getting on the score-sheet for the first time in a 2-0 win.
Yet despite Hesketh's promising start, he only featured once more for the Saints; a tough learning curve in the Europa League away to Hapoel Be'er-Sheva, before disaster struck. An ankle injury in October has prevented him from playing since.
However, he took a huge step to replicating the promising form of the early season when he played an hour for Southampton under-23s against league leaders Everton, marking his first minutes of competitive football this calendar year.
Great to be back
After a tough few months, Hesketh was understandably delighted to be playing football again, stating it was "nice to be back" after a "frustrating few months."
Hesketh is also hopeful that his recent experiences will make him "tougher mentally."
He is yet to play Premier League football and the tricky task of conquering the unforgiving world of professional football still lies ahead, meaning he will need to be mentally strong if he is to continue his individual rise up the Southampton ladder.
Return not ideal
While Monday night was a resounding success for Hesketh personally, he admitted his disappointment at being unable to mark his comeback with a positive result.
Everton's developing talents lead the Premier League 2, the competition for under-23 teams, and comfortably brushed aside the Saints, winning 2-0.
He confessed that he wanted to return in "slightly better circumstances", and that he and his team-mates weren't "anywhere near our best or what we are capable of."
Nevertheless, Hesketh will hope that this bittersweet event will ultimately edge him closer to regaining his status as a useful and unique option for manager Claude Puel.