Liverpool forward Harvey Elliott admits his goalscoring return from injury was a dream come true but he knows there is no easy path back into the team.
His 32-minute substitute cameo – after almost five months out with an horrific fracture dislocation of his left ankle – saw him open his account for the club in Sunday’s 3-1 FA Cup win over Cardiff.
At the beginning of the campaign, the 18-year-old surprisingly started three of the opening four Premier League matches after impressing manager Jurgen Klopp in pre-season, only for his progress to be cruelly halted an hour into a game at Leeds.
It has been a long way back through months of rehabilitation but he rejoins the squad at a time when arguably it is at the strongest it has been in Klopp’s six years in charge.
The £37.5 million January arrival of Colombia international Luis Diaz has increased competition up front and, with Africa Cup of Nations champion Sadio Mane and beaten finalist Mohamed Salah set to return this week, and a fully-fit squad for the first time in a long while, first-team slots are at a premium.
So while Elliott could enjoy scoring in front of the Kop, he is well aware the hard work is far from over.
“It’s a dream come true. To come back from a horrible injury like that in quick time and to come here and score in front of the fans, I’m just buzzing,” he told LiverpoolFC.com.
“When I came on as a sub, it did bring a little tear to my eye. It was a moment I’ll remember and a moment that I can learn from in the future and look back on it and think, ‘if I can go through it at such a young age, I can go through anything’.
“Obviously it’s still going to take time to get back into the team. You can see, there’s world-class players coming back, in terms of Thiago.
“There’s players still out with Fabinho (who was rested after international duty with Brazil) and we saw the likes of Curt, Hendo, Naby as well.
“There’s always competition throughout the team, so to get in it, it’s not easy. That’s my aim at the end of the day.
“My focus is there and my targets are there. It’s just down to me to take them and make sure I get in the team.”
Having such a deep squad available at this stage of the season could not have been better timed for Klopp, whose side are still in contention for four trophies.
They face Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final later this month and have an FA Cup last-16 tie at home to Norwich, in addition to their forthcoming Champions League last-16 clash against Inter Milan.
Wresting the Premier League title away from Manchester City still looks like the most difficult task as they trail Pep Guardiola’s side by nine points, albeit with a game in hand and a trip to the Etihad Stadium in early April.
Klopp does not want to tempt fate regarding the status of his squad but accepts having more options will help.
“I hate to talk about these kind of things because the next day I get a message saying something is not like it was before, but if they are all fit, we have a good squad,” said the Reds boss.
“We play Thursday against Leicester, we play Sunday against Burnley and then Champions League and all this kind of stuff, so the games are coming really thick and fast and we have to be ready for that.
“The more players we have fit and available, the better it is, but that doesn’t win football games because other teams have good squads as well.
“So you have then to do the right stuff on the pitch – and that’s what we have to do.”