Curtis Main admits he never lost belief he could successfully fight his way back from Pompey exile.
The striker was handed a maiden Blues league start for almost 13 months in last Sunday’s trip to Gillingham.
The gaffer said that as long as I worked hard then the opportunities would come. Well, I have worked hard and one way or another they have comeCurtis Main
He responded with a hard-working performance – and involvement in Matty Kennedy’s decisive goal in the 1-0 victory.
It was September 2016 when Main was previously named in a league line-up and just six weeks later he never played again under Paul Cook.
Dogged by a frustrating period of injury, the 25-year-old had the opportunity to pitch his goal-scoring talents to new boss Kenny Jackett during the pre-season.
Now he has broken back into the league reckoning following two Checkatrade Trophy outings under the ex-Wolves manager.
Main said: ‘You’ve got to be incredibly strong and resilient in your mental side, while physically I’ve kept working and doing all the right things to be able to make this opportunity come around.
‘It’s just one of those things where you have to knuckle down and not get too disheartened when things aren’t going your way.
‘As long as you have that belief in yourself then it will always come back around and things will turn for you.
‘From day one, I have made it clear that although I didn’t play a lot of football last year, through one way or another, this season I came back fully focussed on staying fit, performing and training to prove what I can bring to the side.
‘The gaffer said that as long as I worked hard then the opportunities would come.
‘Well, I have worked hard and one way or another they have come.
‘It’s not easy always being overlooked, but if there is someone in opposition for the role doing their job that’s easier to take and you think “Yep, no problem, he’s performing well”. That’s just the way football is.
‘But when someone isn’t performing or missing through injury, that’s when you think “Right, maybe it’s my opportunity”.
‘And I’m pleased it has come around.’
Thrown in for his opportunity at the Priestfield Stadium, Main’s crucial contribution arrived 26 seconds after half-time.
His header from Nathan Thompson’s first-time right-wing cross smacked against the upright – and Kennedy converted the loose ball.
Now Main is gunning to keep his place against MK Dons on Saturday.
He added: ‘I knew during on the Friday I would be playing.
‘We were working on things and it was looking like it was going to be me, so I had a little bit of time to prepare.
‘I’ve been expecting to come out and perform like I know I can. I’m sure the goals will not be too far behind.
‘But it is the performance which is first and foremost and as a team we showed the right work-rate and desire.’