Dutchman Joey Pelupessy has emerged from a tough baptism to life in English football with flying colours.
The Sheffield Wednesday midfielder joined countryman Jos Luhukay at Hillsborough in January, with the Owls facing a Championship relegation battle.
With a midfield missing key men like Sam Hutchinson, Kieran Lee and Barry Bannan, the 24-year-old had big boots to fill.
But, after making his debut in the FA Cup against Reading – who return to Hillsborough today in the league – Pelupessy has quickly adapted to life at Wednesday.
“I’m understanding the league a little more,” said Pelupessy. “If I compare myself with the first weeks and this last period, you see a difference.
“I feel every week I’m growing a little bit. I’ve played better in the last period than the beginning so I’m getting used to it.”
When the managerless Owls slumped to a 3-0 home defeat to strugglers Burton Albion on New Year’s Day, a tough second half of the campaign loomed.
Championship safety was only confirmed in last week’s 1-0 win at Hull City, and Pelupessy admitted he joined a club battling for their future.
He said: “It is a different situation. At the beginning, we didn’t have a lot of points and we had to fight a little bit in a relegation battle. It has changed and I’m very happy with that.
“I feel more comfortable now. It is not that I didn’t feel more comfortable in the beginning but if you are new then you are always more quiet and it is not easy.
“Now I think I’m accepted with the guys and I feel very well and I’m very happy when we score a goal.
“Sometimes when I celebrate a goal I see the highlights after the game and I’m thinking ‘I was so crazy in my head!’ But it’s not a bad thing.”
The Owls, with three games remaining, have 50 points and Pelupessy is hoping they can finish the season on a high.
“When the manager first arrived, we had to gather a lot of points as we were a little bit in trouble,” he said.
Now in the last games we have to finish with good results and he has to try a little bit to see how we are going to play next season.Joey Pelupessy
“It is not always about the way you play and you just have to win and take points.
“Now in the last games we have to finish with good results and he has to try a little bit to see how we are going to play next season.
“We have to go into the holidays with a good feeling. We don’t want to lose three games now. Of course, we have enough points but for for the group and for the fans you want to create a good feeling for the next season.”
The Owls have won four of their last six games – against Leeds United, Preston, Sunderland and Hull – and have lost to Fulham and Queens Park Rangers.
That has helped lift the mood at S6, and Pelupessy, who is starting to form a promising midfield partnership with the returning Bannan, is optimistic for the future.
“The result (at Hull) was very good,” he said. “I’ve got a really good, positive feeling about things as we have won a lot of games in this period.
“We lost against Fulham but they were a good opponent and we lost the QPR game ourselves because we made a lot of mistakes in the first 15 minutes.
“There were some difficult things but I think we have done well over the whole period. We have had a lot of wins and the team is growing. The last few weeks have been positive.”
Last season, Wednesday and Reading were bridesmaids in the Championship play-offs, both losing to Huddersfield Town.
Twelve months on and both have struggled in the bottom half of the table, with the Royals sat five points above third-from-bottom Barnsley.
“Every season is not the same,” said Owls chief Luhukay. “Reading last year were in the play-off final against Huddersfield, but this season their performances have maybe not been what they wanted.
“A new manager has come, but the team is very good. They have a lot of quality – more than their position in the league (suggests) I think.”
Luhukay has no fears his Owls team will be complacent today.
“The mentality and character in the group is fantastic, so I am not afraid my team will suddenly not be motivated for the game,” he said.