Fabian Schar hadn’t kicked a ball in anger in more than two months when Jamaal Lascelles was forced off at St James’s Park.
But he was ready.
And the Newcastle United defender showed why Rafa Benitez brought him to the club in 45 fraught second-half minutes on Saturday.
Schar, signed from Deportivo La Coruna in the summer, was superb at the back.
The 26-year-old, comfortable with the ball at his feet, also looked to turn defence into attack.
Newcastle clung on and won 1-0 thanks to Ayoze Perez’s headed goal.
The result, the club’s first win of the season, lifted Newcastle out of the Premier League’s relegation zone.
“I think, for the whole team, it was a massive win,” said Schar. “We waited too long – the whole season – to get three points.
“Especially for me, I had a difficult time without minutes the last months, so I had to train a lot and work in the training trying to do everything to get some minutes.
“I think, with the win, it was a perfect game for us.
I came here new trying to help the team. I couldn’t help the team. Now I’m hoping there will come some better times for the team and also me.Fabian Schar
“It was massive for all of us – the whole club and the fans. Now we keep going.
“We were saying we have to keep going like this and fight for each other. If we do, we will get some more wins.”
Schar hadn’t played since United’s Carabao Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest in late August.
The Switzerland international had also played 79 minutes of the club’s league defeat to Chelsea early in the season.
Those two appearances were the sum total of Schar’s experience of competitive football in England when Lascelles was forced off with a shoulder injury at the break.
“You have to be ready – always,” said Schar.
“You never know what happens. Lascelles had some problem with his shoulder. It can happen in every game, so you have to be ready. I think everybody was trying their best to help the team.”
Schar had come to St James’s Park to “help the team”, but he felt helpless during his two months out of the team.
“It’s difficult,” said Schar. “Every player wants to play. It’s normal. You have a lot of players in the team. It’s normal sometimes that you have difficult times.
“For me, the last months were difficult. I came here new trying to help the team. I couldn’t help the team. Now I’m hoping there will come some better times for the team and also me.”
Schar – who has played in Switzerland, Germany and Spain and at the summer’s World Cup finals – has had to adjust to the physicality of English football.
“Each league is different,” said Schar. “Here, it’s more physical, more strong, and also you have to fight for each duel and you have a lot of duels during the game.
“You cannot stop for one second. I think the Premier League is one of the best leagues, or the best league, in the world.”
Has Schar now given his manager a selection headache?
“I’m trying to do my best, like I do in training,” he said. “I’m trying to show my qualities all the time in training. It’s nice when you get three points.
“Now we keep going. It’s only one win, but we now have more confidence.”