Portsmouth defender Hermann Hreidarsson revealed his delight after seeing nine months of hard work finally pay off on Boxing Day.
Pompey boss Steve Cotterill handed the Icelander a first start since he ruptured his Achilles in March, and he lasted 66 minutes of the 1-1 draw with Millwall.
"It's been a gradual process but I've always been on schedule, so it was always in my mind that I would come back," said Hreidarsson.
"It's nice to see the reward after so much hard work.
"I thought I was ready three months ago as soon as I could kick a ball again!
"Because we haven't got a reserve team it's been hard for the gaffer to see where I was in terms of fitness, but he's been great through the whole thing."