Kean Bryan admits that his first two years at Sheffield United have been tough.
Bryan signed from Manchester City in the summer of 2018 ahead of the season the Blades were promoted to the Premier League.
Yet the defender played just once that term in the shock FA Cup third round defeat to non-league Barnet.
Bryan made just two other match day squads in 2018/19 and the following campaign wasn’t much better.
Once again the 24-year-old was limited to cup appearances and was sent on loan to Bolton Wanderers in League One in January.
Yet a defensive crisis for United in 2020/21 has seen Bryan finally and unexpectedly get his chance in the top flight.
The centre-back has started the last two league matches on the left side of a back three.
Although the Blades have lost both, Bryan has looked solid in defeats to est Bromwich Albion and Leicester City.
Kean Bryan gets Sheffield United chance in difficult circumstances
“On a personal level, it has been a tough time for me and I have not been in the frame in terms of playing games,” Bryan told The Yorkshire Post.
“But that has been because I am behind Jack O’Connell and he is an unbelievable player. When they are keeping clean sheets like they were when he was in the team, I could not really expect to play, but just keep my head down and work as hard as I could on the training pitch.
“That is what I did in the off-season and, thankfully, I am getting the chance to play games in the team now.
“It was tough times for me, I am not going to shy away from that. When I signed, I was expecting to play and it was gutting for me.”
How the opportunity came along
Bryan was indeed behind O’Connell at the beginning of this campaign. The 26-year-old has since had knee surgery and is now likely to be out for the rest of the season.
But at the start of this term, Bryan was probably fourth choice after O’Connell.
Jack Robinson first started in his place following the operation. However, manager Chris Wilder has since said Robinson has “not done enough” to play.
Both Enda Stevens and Ethan Ampadu have also been used in the role before Bryan got his chance. They still might be if the duo weren’t both injured.
Yet luck plays a big role in football and players just have to make sure they grab their chance when it comes along.
Bryan certainly seems to be doing that. Which most people, himself included, probably didn’t envisage at the beginning of the season.
Things on the pitch are not going well currently, but for Bryan at least one positive has come out of it.