Manchester City defender Micah Richards admits it has been doubly frustrating to sit on the sidelines and watch Manchester United march towards title glory.
Richards returned to action in City's victory over Wigan in midweek after six months on the sidelines with a knee injury. During his arduous road to recovery he has not only seen the outstanding Pablo Zabaleta firmly establish himself as first-choice right-back, but City's grip on the Barclays Premier League crown has all but been relinquished.
The 24-year-old said: "It has definitely been frustrating, especially when you see United top of the league. After last season I thought we would have kicked on and maybe been a bit better, maybe retained it. We haven't done that but I think next season we will regroup and hopefully we will get it back."
Richards went down injured in a victory over Swansea last October, which in itself had been just the fourth game of a comeback from an ankle problem. It has been the most testing time for a player who has been beset by niggling problems in the past but he accepts he must now bide his time behind Zabaleta.
The City youth product said: "Five-and-a-half, six months - it is quite frustrating to be out so long. When I came back I was playing really well. Now Zaba has been class this season. It is going to be hard to get back in but you know what football is like, one minute you are in and the next you are out. When I am in I am going to have to take my chance."
Richards, after returning to training three weeks ago, came into the side as Zabaleta was rested after the exertions of last week's derby defeat of United and Sunday's FA Cup semi-final win over Chelsea.
But with an important trip to Tottenham coming up this weekend, Richards expects Zabaleta to be restored as City further look to cement second place.
He said: "I think Zaba is going to be back in after the way he has been playing but if I am called upon I will give 100 per cent. Last time after injury I almost tried to rush back. This time I don't want to rush back. I want to take it steady and when I am called upon try to do a job.
"For me it is just getting back, getting some minutes under my belt, just to play 80 minutes was enough for me for now.
"I will just keep training, working hard, trying to get fitter and stronger. Hopefully I will get some more games before the end of the season."