Saturday saw Liverpool youngster Tom Hill make his first appearance in four months, and only his third all season, after “rotten luck” with injuries.
In the two-and-a-half years since Hill suffered his first major injury as a 17-year-old in 2020, he has grown from a boy to a man.
Now 20, the Formby youth has filled out after months spent in the gym, with a series of injury problems limiting him to only a handful of appearances in the years since damaging his ACL.
So far this campaign there have been two layoffs, both lasting four months – the first following a pre-season injury with the senior squad and then after a pair of under-21s outings in November.
But coming off the bench as the U21s beat Blackburn 3-2 on Saturday, Hill will be hoping to put his fitness woes behind him.
“Tom has been working really hard and it was great to see him out on the pitch again,” manager Barry Lewtas told Liverpool’s official website.
“He was desperate to put the kit back on and get out and play, so the plan was to give him some minutes.
“It was really pleasing for him to get on because he has worked ever so hard.
“The reality is he has had really rotten luck, so hopefully – and there are still plenty of games left – Tom can play a big part for us between now and the end of the season.”
This month sees Hill join up with the Wales U21s, before the final five games in an unlikely title challenge with the young Reds and a cup quarter-final against Crystal Palace.
It could serve as the run-up to a decisive season next time out, with the likelihood being he stays with Liverpool and looks to get a consistent run of form with the U21s.
His involvement with the first team during their pre-season tour of Asia was a sign of the club’s faith in him, and it was certainly right to do so given the potential he showed in years gone by.
When he suffered his initial ACL injury, Hill was preparing for a campaign as captain of the under-18s, having already made a senior debut of sorts in the Carabao Cup against Aston Villa.
Hill’s troubles over the past 30 months show the fine margins young footballers contend with as they look to break through.
Thankfully, he is at a club that should provide him with the support he needs.