Paul Huntington thinks his long absence from the Preston North End squad was tougher mentally rather than physically.
After 11 months without a Championship start, the centre-half has just played five games in a row and will be hoping to feature against Leeds United – one of his former clubs – on Boxing Day at Elland Road.
Huntington kept in good shape during his time out of the picture but there was an element of frustration at not being involved.
“It’s been good to be back involved, I was out for a while which was frustrating,” said Huntington.
“But I recognised that the team were doing well so I just kept my head down, worked hard as I always do and waited for a chance.
“I did a lot of extra work with the fitness coach Tom Little to keep myself right.
“It was hard mentally. For the last seven years – this is my eighth season – I had been a big part of it here but I went to not being involved.
“At the end of last season I didn’t really play but I was still on the bench and involved.
“This season was different so obviously I’ve been delighted to be back in the last five games.”
Huntington’s return to the side has appeared seamless, with few signs of rust from being out of the squad.
The 32-year-old was plunged back in against West Bromwich Albion when both Patrick Bauer and Ben Davies were injured.
He had two games next to Jordan Storey, then got the nod to start alongside Bauer when the German returned.
“I’ve enjoyed being back but you don’t get too long to assess yourself and how you’ve played,” said Huntington.
“The focus is always on the next game.
“If you get a good result, you enjoy it for a day and then your mind turns to who you play next and which players you will be facing.
“What we have done is to bounce back well from that run of defeats.
“I came back in for what was the third defeat and I couldn’t believe we lost against West Brom.
“The clean sheet at Cardiff on Saturday was a welcome one, there haven’t been too many of those lately.”
Huntington played 32 times for Leeds after joining them from Newcastle in 2007.
“I was there for two-and-a-half years but only played for the first 18 months,” said Huntington.
“It’s a fantastic club, a big club and the expectation levels are high.”