For the past nine months, Jack Collison has felt like a West Ham United supporter, kicking every ball and making every tackle from his seat in the stands.
The No10 was ruled out for much of the 2010/11 campaign with a serious knee injury before returning for the final three matches of a campaign that ultimately ended in the disappointment of relegation
Now, Collison has vowed to repay his fellow supporters by helping the Hammers to bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
"It's very important. It's a great club and a massive club with great traditions and if you look at the support on Sunday, I don't think many clubs would have had that amount of fans turn up and be so great even after being relegated the week before. They sang their hearts out, even at 3-0 down.
"They were still cheering when they could quite easily have got on our backs and given us some abuse - and it would have been fully deserved, really.
"Once again they were great. A club like West Ham doesn't deserve this, so hopefully we can bounce back next season and get back in the big time where we belong."
While Collison is naturally frustrated at the club's predicament and unwanted new status as a member of the Championship, the midfielder is understandably happy just to be back on the pitch again after more than a year out of action.
"I've said on many occasions that I felt like a fan and I know how it feels to support West Ham. It's been great to get back to being a footballer and doing what I love, but it's just disappointing that things have happened this way.
"If I'm honest with you, I'm just happy to be playing football and doing the job I love every day. Twelve months ago, I was sat at home at my Mum's on a CPM (Continuous Passive Motion) machine so if you'd have said I'd be back playing in front of 30,000 people on the pitch a year later, I'd have bit your hand off.
"For me personally, I'm just delighted to be back playing but disappointed at the same time that this season has gone the way it has. We've just got to bounce back."
Collison himself, just 22, and a host of other Academy graduates are expected to play an important role in West Ham's promotion bid next term.
While dropping down a division is clearly not what anybody at the club wanted, the Wales international knows his fellow youngsters will be chomping at the bit to fire their club back to the big time.
"It's all experience and I know a lot of the young players are relishing the opportunity. It's a massive club and the people should be working hard to play for the claret and blue. We've got great traditions.
"Obviously it hasn't been a great season, but the people above will have a busy summer and will be eager to bounce back."
While he and his fellow graduates are expected to stay, the futures of the likes of England midfielder and Hammer of the Year Scott Parker and Robert Green are less certain.
Should Parker depart, Collison is aware that he and his fellow midfielders will need to step up and fill the void left by their inspirational No8.
"We'll see what happens. They are big boots to fill. Scotty Parker has been unbelievable and it's been a pleasure for players like myself and the other young players to watch him day-in, day-out in training and the intensity he attacks everything with is quite amazing.
"Obviously a lot of clubs are going to be interested in Scotty now and I don't think any West Ham fan can say anything bad about him. He's worked his heart out all season and, at times, has done unbelievable things.
"I remember the Wigan [home] game. He was ill all week, turned up on the weekend, scored a goal and was absolutely unbelievable. He could hardly move on the Friday, so things like that will always live with me and it's been a pleasure to play with Scotty.
"Football is a very interesting game, isn't it? I've only been in it a short time and I've been at West Ham for five or six years now and I've seen a lot of players come and go. It's just something you've got to live with.
"I've said before that West Ham is a massive club and it's important that we bounce straight back up and get back where we belong in the Premier League, because that's what the fans deserve."