Wigan Athletic have just welcomed back a bigger and better Michael Jacobs than the one who tore a calf muscle injury in January.
That’s according to the man himself, who marked his return to the starting line-up with a crucial goal in the 1-1 draw at Burton in midweek.
And it spells bad news for the defences of Southend, Blackpool and Barnsley over the next fortnight or so, as the 24-year-old aims to make up for lost time after three months out.
“It’s always frustrating as a footballer when you’re not able to get out there and play,” Jacobs told the Evening Post.
“Touch wood, it’s been the first proper injury of my career, so I can’t really moan.
“The physios and the medical staff have done wonders to get me back here, they really have.
“It’s been one of those things that you can’t rush, you’ve just got to let it take as long as it takes.
“But I feel stronger now, I feel more powerful, and I feel I’ve got another part of my game that I’ve never had before.
“Hopefully I can help the boys out between now and the end of the season and get us over the line.”
Latics, three points clear of second-placed Burton, entertain Southend this weekend, knowing a win would take them to within touching distance of automatic promotion.
But no-one at the DW is counting any chickens, despite coming through the acid test of a trip to the Pirelli Stadium in midweek with their crucial advantage intact.
“It’s still going to be a massive challenge for us, because we’ve got three tough games left,” Jacobs acknowledged.
“Southend won’t be easy this weekend, and obviously Blackpool are fighting for the lives at the bottom.
“We’re sort of heading in the right direction, although the performances in the last two matches probably haven’t been of the standard we’ve set this season.
“But at the end of the day you can’t win every single game, and to go 20 games unbeaten as the boys did recently was a fantastic achievement – and we’ve set a great standard for ourselves.
“A point at Burton I don’t think was a bad result, especially considering Walsall drew as well, and it’s another game ticked off.”
Having been restored to the starting XI at the expense of Yanic Wildschut, Jacobs repaid the faith of manager Gary Caldwell by netting the opening goal – his ninth of a disrupted campaign – on seven minutes.
However, he admits there was m ore than an element of fortune as his cross-shot ended up sneaking in at the far post.
“To be fair I’ve just tried to leave it in an area,” he smiled, sheepishly.
“I’ve seen Will (Grigg) in there, and I’ve just tried to dribble it in there, and somehow it’s ended up in the net.
“But I’ll take it, because it’s been a good while since I’ve been on the scoresheet.”
Burton equalised just before half-time through Tom Naylor, and the second half turned into a real war of attrition with both sides cancelling each other out.
While Latics were more than happy with a point, Jacobs admits they’d have preferred to have done it with a bit more style.
“It turned into a bit of a battle, but at the end of the day we also want to perform,” Jacobs recognised.
“We know at the end of the season it’s all about getting as many points as you can and getting promoted.
“But we also want to better ourselves, and set a standard where we are playing good football and winning matches.
“At Burton we probably didn’t do that, and it was a shame we didn’t come away with all three points.
“It fast, it was frantic, it was sort of game you expect from a top-end League One clash – especially away from home.
“We knew they’d press us, and not allow us to play our own game.
“I think we were a little bit disappointed with our performance, because we wanted to put on a show and obviously win the game.
“We didn’t get into the rhythm we normally have, but we’ll take a point all things considered.
“I wouldn’t say the boys were happy in there after. It was more content than anything. But we’ll take a hard-earned point – and move on to the last three.”