Rewind back to January, and it looked as though Nathan Byrne had played his last game for Wigan Athletic.
Having found himself on the outside looking in towards the end of the Gary Caldwell reign, Byrne was ignored completely by Warren Joyce, before being loaned out to Charlton midway through last term.
However, the arrival of Paul Cook has given the 25-year-old a new lease of life at the DW Stadium.
And having been an ever-present in the side at right-back this term, it’s one he’s clearly taking with both hands.
“I think I needed to go out on loan last year – the environment and everything wasn’t right for me here,” Byrne told the Wigan Post.
“I had an enjoyable five months at Charlton, I really enjoyed it, and it did me good.
“But I always wanted to come back here and continue my career.
“Speaking to the gaffer here after he came in, he said he saw me as a big part of the future – and I’m enjoying it.”
Byrne arrived at Wigan in the summer of 2016 from Wolves with a reputation as an attacking right wing-back.
But with Latics rarely playing a back five last term, he found it hard to fit into the more disciplined and defensive right-back role in a flat back four.
However, with the introduction of Cook’s new 4-2-3-1 formation – and the emphasis on the full-backs getting forward to attack – there’s far more scope for him to play his normal game and affect the game at the other end of the field.
“The gaffer told me he wanted me to get forward at will, with the insurance of having two sitters in midfield to cover,” Byrne explained
“I think there’s two different types of right-back – and I’m a big fan of this type.
“I want to get forward, I want to create chances, and I want to get involved in the attacking as well as the defensive.
“As more of a solid back four, that’s not really what I’m all about. But thankfully the gaffer wants me to play this role.
“He even had a go at me and Reece (James) after the defeat at Shrewsbury, and said we hadn’t been attacking enough!”
The 1-0 win over Northampton in midweek was Wigan’s third in a row - with a hat-trick of clean sheets – that saw them climb to second in the table ahead of this weekend’s trip to third-placed Peterborough.
It was a real struggle before Michael Jacobs scored the only goal 10 minutes into the second period, but Byrne says patience was the buzzword on the night.
“They’re the games you look back on at the end of the season and they’ve made the difference,” he explained.
“You’re never going to be able to play lovely football for 46 games right through the season.
“But against a very strong Northampton team, the boys delivered a very strong performance and got the job done.
“At half-time, the message from the gaffer was not to get frustrated, that the goal would come in time.
“Anyone who’d seen the first seven league games would have known we don’t struggle to create chances.
“And the main thing was to make sure we kept a clean sheet at the back so only one goal would do it.
“It’s great to be in a team that you know is going to create chances every week.
“Obviously we’re happy to be in the top two and the challenge now is to stay there.
“The forwards are scoring goals, and that’s now three clean sheets in a row for the defenders.
“There’s a really positive feeling around the place at the moment, and long may that continue.”