Shaun Cooper admits he has a fight on his hands to get back in the Crawley Town side after a three month injury lay-off.
Cooper was signed from Bournemouth in the summer by Sean O’Driscoll, who declared he would be on the best passers of the ball in the division.
“I am not deluding myself,” Cooper said. “I do need more time and fitness and a reserve game would be nice. Any minutes I can get I am grateful for.
“When you have been at a club for so long everyone knows what you are capable of, but I came here and have not had a chance to prove what I can do.
“People have already judged on what they have seen, and you know it’s not your best yet.”
Cooper has been close to a return on numerous occasions throughout his absence, but the injury proved too persistent, as others, such as Mark Connolly and Joe Walsh have made their mark on the side.
He was sidelined for much of the 2009/2010 season at the Cherries after undergoing hip surgery.
“Things like this which are a bit of a mystery are very frustrating,” Cooper added.
“It’s frustrating, it’s a test of character and gets you down.
“I’m pleased for the lads who have come in, before I would never like to see people doing well in my position, but the older you get you just want the team to do well. I’m not expected to just come back into the side.”
Manager Richie Barker admitted it would take some time for Cooper get back up to full speed.
He added: “He has had no reserve games and very little training.
“While he has been away some people have stepped up to the plate, we have two young centre halves, Mark Connolly has been fantastic for example.”