Andy Boyle has had to be a patient man during his time with Preston North End.
The Irishman arrived alongside Daryl Horgan from Dundalk in January and saw his team-mate thrust straight into Championship action.
The pair made the move from the League of Ireland to Deepdale on the back of winning three straight titles and flying the flag for their country in the Champions League and Europa League.
While winger Horgan grabbed early headlines, Boyle was made to wait until the trip to Derby on March 7 for his Preston debut.
The 26-year-old impressed in the 1-1 draw and enjoyed a good run towards the end of the campaign under Simon Grayson, as he made seven appearances in the second tier and won his first Republic of Ireland cap against Iceland.
Boyle’s aim will have been kick on and establish himself but with Alex Neil taking over in the dugout he has found himself down the pecking order at the heart of the defence.
Having played in a much-changed side in the League Cup exit at Accrington back in August, it was not until Wednesday night’s 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa that he got his first taste of Championship action this season.
A crippling injury list has opened the door for Boyle to get a run in the side, something he is desperate to make the most of.
“We’ve done quite well all year and you have to bide your time and wait for an opportunity,” he said.
“I’ve just had to work hard behind the scenes, keep fit and wait for a chance.
“We’ve got a lot of injuries now and sometimes you’ve just got to be patient and hope your time comes. I’ve waited a long time for a chance and I was really looking forward to Wednesday night when I found out I was playing.
“Hopefully I can get an extended run in the team now but it’s down to the manager.
“When you get your chance you just want to go in and do as well as you can and plant the seed in the manager’s head that you’re here to play and you’ll hopefully be in his thoughts.
“I hope I did that on Wednesday and hopefully in the future I can play more games.”
Medial knee ligament injuries to Josh Earl and Calum Woods, who started alongside Boyle in central defence against Villa, mean that there are now seven defenders out injured.
The duo join Tom Clarke, Greg Cunningham, Tommy Spurr, Ben Davies and Marnick Vermijl in battling varying problems at the moment as Neil looks to patch up a defence for the trip to Ipswich on Saturday.
“There aren’t many central defenders about at the club at the moment,” said Boyle.
“It’s a weird one, I’ve never known so many injuries in one position.
“It’s quite strange and hopefully we can have better luck with injuries going forwards.”
Boyle looks likely to partner returning stand-in skipper Paul Huntington at the heart of the defence at Portman Road, the Cumbrian another absentee against Villa as he served a one-game ban after picking up five bookings.
It is a more conventional defensive partnership for the Lilywhites, Boyle having played the second half alongside emergency cover Alan Browne in Wednesday night’s Deepdale defeat.
“Browny’s the type of lad and player who can play anywhere and be an eight or nine out of 10,” said Boyle.
“He gives it his all and I thought he was very good to be honest.
“Not many go from a number 10 a centre-half but I thought he did well when he went in there.
“You talk him through it as much as you can but he didn’t need my help too much.”
Goals from James Chester and Robert Snodgrass saw PNE slip to a third straight Championship defeat in front of the Sky cameras, Steve Bruce’s visitors well in command even before more injury woe made North End’s task almost impossible.
The opener saw Preston concede straight from a corner for the first time in the league this season before a sloppy Ben Pearson pass left Boyle short, Albert Adomah breaking clear for Snodgrass to score.
“I thought we did okay in the game until two sloppy goals,” said the Irishman.
“Set-pieces are something we work hard on, both defending and attacking so to concede in the manner that we did gave them a foothold in the game.
“Then we’re going chasing and we were probably a bit naive in the way we conceded the second.
“But in the second half we gave it a good go and it was a decent performance from us.”
One key factor on Wednesday night was Villa’s added experience, John Terry marshalling a side that look set to challenge at the sharp end.
North End were however denied a first-half penalty for a challenge on Sean Maguire which could have been decisive with the game poised at 1-1.
“It’s probably the little breaks you need and Sean was adamant it was a penalty,” Boyle said.
“If you get a penalty and score it’s a totally different game because goals change games and unfortunately it didn’t go our way.
“They’ve got so much experience and know-how and knew how to take the sting out of the game when we were probably getting up a head of steam.
“They were quite good at that. Barring the penalty appeal we didn’t create too many clear-cut chances.
“They defended well on the night and it wasn’t for the want of trying from us.”
Saturday’s trip to face Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich sees Preston, 10th in the Championship, look to end their mini slump.
The Tractor Boys are one place below the Lilywhites on the same number of points but have lost four of their last five games.
“It looks like a game that both teams want to win now,” said Boyle.
“The manager sets us up to win every game, away from home or at home, and we’ll go there and try and get a positive result.”