A year ago, Jack Collison cut a frustrated figure.
Three months after playing an influential role as West Ham United regained their place in the Barclays Premier League, a long-term knee problem forced the No10 to miss both pre-season and the opening half of the 2012/13 campaign.
Fast forward 12 months and the midfielder is a smiling, happy father of a young daughter and is clearly enjoying the opportunity to play football regularly again.
Collison has featured in all four of the Hammers' pre-season fixtures so far, starting three and scoring in a win at AFC Bournemouth last weekend. Now, he has his mind set on the Club's three pre-season matches in Germany and the start of the 2013/14 campaign in August.
"Pre-season has been great for the boys so far," he confirmed. "It's been nice to get on a little run. It's four wins out of four and now we're in Germany where we should face some tougher tests and give us a picture of where we're at.
"It's great for me to be out there playing matches, even pre-season matches, because I love being out there playing football. I think it's the same for everyone. There is a really good atmosphere in the camp already and you can see it building and everyone is enjoying their work and already gearing towards Cardiff. It's great."
After scoring two vital goals in the Championship Play-Off semi-final first leg win over Cardiff in May 2012, Collison showed his eye for goal again by netting in typically composed style at Bournemouth.
"It's nice to get a goal or two in pre-season and I should have had another one at Colchester on Tuesday night. It's something I am looking to build on. I managed to score a few in the Championship and didn't get as many as I'd have liked last season, so it's something I want to improve on.
"I need to get my head down, work hard and try and put myself into the manager's thoughts for Cardiff. It's going to be a massive day. It was great to get the goals against them in the Play-Offs and progressing past them to go up, but what is still in the memory is the first game under the Gaffer in the Championship when they beat us 1-0.
"We know it's going to be a tough test but come matchday we'll be raring to go and get one over on them."
Collison and his team-mates touched down in Frankfurt on Wednesday to prepare for a three-match tour of Germany that will see them take on Bundesliga sides FSV Mainz, Hamburger SV and Eintracht Braunschweig over a ten-day period. The Wales international is looking forward to the challenge of facing continental opposition from a country whose football has earned rave reviews in recent months.
"Pre-season is a lot of hard work but it gives you your base for the rest of the season. Looking at our fitness stats last year, we were one of the best in the Premier League which obviously gives us an edge going into games knowing we are fit and strong. Towards the end of games, when other teams tire, we're looking good and we want to do that again this year and build on what was a great campaign last season.
"At the moment, the Germans are the teams to beat. The way their teams are built, it's as if they are made of steel so it's going to be tough. It's something we're really looking forward to.
"We've been back for three weeks now, so it'll be nice to see where we're at as a team and what we've got to work on. We're full of confidence and looking to work hard and also enjoy it at the same time."