England midfielder Harry Winks sat and watched the World Cup as a fan as he nursed a long-standing ankle injury – but now he is back in the frame and enjoying mixing it with the best.
The 22-year-old earned his second senior cap as England recorded a memorable 3-2 Nations League victory over Spain in Seville on Monday.
Winks is highly regarded within the national set-up, having been handed his debut almost a year ago.
But an ankle injury plagued him for much of last season and he underwent surgery on the issue, ruling him out from February onwards.
That arguably cost the Tottenham midfielder a place in Gareth Southgate's World Cup squad but, having returned at the start of this campaign, he is now firmly back in the international picture.
While the likes of two-goal Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford will rightly earn plenty of plaudits for a win in Spain which stemmed from a scintillating first-half display, Winks quietly went about his business and was pleased to once again turn out for the Three Lions.
"It was a memorable day for me, it was a great night to be involved in especially coming here and getting the win – it was an incredible night for the team," he said.
"Obviously the injury came at a difficult time for me. Being just after my first cap it was quite difficult to take that but the lads did really well in the World Cup but I was just sitting there as a fan and cheering them as I would have done if I was there.
"It is probably the most difficult experience I have had in my career so far.
"Every player gets injuries, I'm no different and players have to go through difficult situations and I'm another one but for me being young – and at the time I was performing well for club and had an opportunity with my country as well – so it was tough for me to deal with but that is football and mentally you have to be strong and put up a barrier and deal with it.
"I have come out of the other side and I feel a lot more mentally strong than before."
Winks has form for impressing against the Spanish having also looked good as Spurs faced Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Champions League in recent times – but he insists he is still looking to improve his game and nail down a spot for club and country.
"I'm proud of myself and the way I have performed," he added.
"But I still believe I can perform a lot better, I watch the games back and believe I can do a lot better on the ball as well.
"The magnitude of the games are big and I'm happy to have performed in these games and done respectable but in my opinion I can improve a lot more and I have got more to show.
"They are similar – all the games are against technical opposition who like to keep the ball and with a Spanish background so they are all very similar games.
"You are playing against teams who are patient in possession, a lot of movement and fluid but every game for me is a learning test and today for me was another one and I'm honoured to have played in it.
"There is nothing I can rest my laurels on and I have got to improve at absolutely everything – my mindset is to go back and work on that, work on my game."