Emmanuel Frimpong admits there was a time he thought his chance with Arsenal was gone and is determined to make the most of Tuesday night's final Champions League Group F clash against Olympiacos in Athens.
Midfielder Frimpong, 19, has battled his way back to fitness following a serious knee injury which came after an impressive display alongside England starlet Jack Wilshere in the 2010 pre-season Emirates Cup tournament. Frimpong admits there were times during his rehabilitation when doubts crept in over whether he would have a future with the Gunners.
"I knew I would come back to playing football, but felt I was never going to get my chance at Arsenal again," said Ghana-born Frimpong, who came to England when he was eight and was brought up near Tottenham. "When I had my chance, everything was going well. I thought that when I came back, we would have all the other players fit again."
He added: "But in football you cannot predict anything, and I have just carried on from where I left off, and have that chance again.
"Now I have to keep playing well to force the issue of playing in the team."
As qualification for the knockout stages had already been secured with one match to spare, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger elected to bring a mixed squad out to Greece, so the likes of captain Robin van Persie, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Alex Song all remained in London as a youthful 18-man squad jetted out from Luton.
Wenger has no doubts Frimpong has the strength of character to come through Tuesday night's encounter in a white-hot atmosphere at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium.
"He is a guy you know you can go to war with, he has a real 'winner' attitude," the Arsenal manager said. "Now he has to take the final step and get a regular place in the Arsenal team."
Wenger added: "He was massively impressive before he got injured, because he had been outstanding in pre-season.
"He struggled to come back and feels he is not completely back to his best, but I think he is - what 'Manu' needs now are competitive games."