AS one of just four players whose arrival at Hull City pre-dates that of Steve Bruce, Robbie Brady has witnessed plenty of change.
Promotion, Premier League football, Wembley trips and European football are just a few of the highlights that the Tigers have enjoyed since the Belfast-born winger first walked into the KC Stadium as a teenager in the summer of 2011.
It has truly been a meteoric rise and far beyond what Brady could have hoped for when joining Hull from Manchester United, initially on loan before agreeing a permanent switch at the end of that first season.
Not, however, that it has been all plain-sailing for the Republic of Ireland international, who for the past year has been troubled by a groin injury.
It meant he made just 11 starts last season and only one – in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in February – after the turn of the year.
As a result, his only involvement in Hull’s stirring run to the FA Cup final was a 17-minute cameo from the bench at Southend United in the fourth round.
Happily, those injury problems are now firmly behind Brady.
Appearances, though, are still proving hard to come by with the influx of new signings over the summer bringing such increased competition his only starts have been when Bruce has opted to field a second-string XI in both the Europa League and the Capital One Cup.
“I didn’t really understand the full thing about first-team football when I first came,” said the 22-year-old ahead of today’s game with Crystal Palace. “I was just a young lad wanting to play.
“I am still the same now in many ways but things have changed quite a bit at the club. It is a lot more competitive, especially this season after the last transfer window.
“That is a good thing, it has brought the level up in training. I think the lads are playing well and we have been unlucky a couple of times in the last few weeks.
“We are just waiting on it to click and, hopefully, we can hit the ground running on Saturday and start picking up points again.
“It is good for the manager to have choices like that. It is disappointing for myself in a lot of ways that I haven’t played as much as I would have liked to.
“I feel fit and I feel like I have been playing well in training of late. I am doing as much as I can and, hopefully, it will be enough to get in the starting line-up. If not, then I will be trying for the next match.”
Brady is just one of several casualties of the rise that has seen Hull invest heavily during the last transfer window.
Paul McShane, James Chester and Liam Rosenior – the three players who have been at the KC longer than Brady – are also finding opportunities hard to come by this season.
For Brady, however, having to watch from the sidelines in the Premier League is made even more frustrating by the amount of football he missed last term through his groin problems.
“I am not a good watcher of football if not playing,” he said. “I hate sitting around.
“I missed enough through injury last season, so I am not too happy to know I am back fit but still sitting around.
“I just want to play. I have had enough of sitting around, I am ready to go.
“It is a different sort of frustration now. I would love to blame it on injuries, but it is just the competition to get into the team.
“I am sick of sitting around, I am just dying to get going and get back into the team – winning points, scoring goals and doing as well as I can.
“I haven’t scored in the Premier League this year, which is where I want to be scoring my goals.
“Ideally, I would like to play a more attacking role. The higher up the pitch, the more chance you have got of scoring and that is what I prefer.
“The main thing, though, is playing. I enjoy playing anywhere, just as long as I am playing.”
On his injury problems, Brady added: “I am fully clear now and so glad that the nightmare is over. There has been a lot of strain on my groin for the last year and a bit. First year in the Premier League, you want to do all that you can so for it to go the way it did was hard in a lot of ways.
“I missed a lot of football but there is a lot to play this year and I want to prove my worth.
“I feel strong. I am just happy that I am pain-free now and, touch wood, I can put all that behind me and just get on with things.
“It was horrible, watching the lads play and just hoping things would get a little bit better (for himself) only to then suffer another setback. It was very frustrating, but that is behind me.
“I feel as if I am 100 per cent now, I am training well and feeling fit. Hopefully, if I do get the opportunity to play, I can get those goals.”
Brady’s appearances in amber and black may have been hard to come by in 2014, but he remains very much part of Martin O’Neill’s plans with the Ireland set-up.
The former Old Trafford Academy graduate featured from the bench in last month’s 2-1 Euro 2016 qualifying win over Georgia.
He is also expected to be in the squad to face Gibraltar and Germany when O’Neill whittles down his 37-man provisional list to a more workable number after the weekend games.
Brady, though, is taking nothing for granted. He said: “You have got to be playing. It is hard when you are not playing because it does affect (international chances).
“I have been playing League Cup games and that, but the Premier League is where I want to be playing. Hopefully, I can get a run out against Palace, which would stand me in good stead for the international set-up.”