City centre-half Gary Doherty has welcomed the competition for places in the Canary defence as he looks to put his own injury nightmare behind him and force his way back into the starting eleven.
The former Tottenham man made his comeback in Monday's 5-2 Reserve success over Northampton Town and came through 65 minutes unscathed.
Doherty put in an assured performance and whilst the Cobblers' second string cannot be considered the sternest of tests, it was a good workout for the Donegal-born player.
The City defender has been on the sidelines since the start of October with a groin injury and with new Canary boss Glenn Roeder having added Birmingham centre-half Martin 'Tiny' Taylor to the ranks, Doherty's place in the heart of the defence is by no means guaranteed anymore.
Not so long ago, he only had Ian Murray for company with Dion Dublin and Jason Shackell suspended but the scene is a lot different now and the added fight for places should prove crucial in City's survival battle.
With Dublin recovered from a hamstring injury, he will join Taylor ? who is expected to have recovered from his own groin complaint – captain Jason Shackell, Ian Murray and Doherty in Roeder's thoughts for this weekend's vital clash with Coventry at Carrow Road.
All of which means Roeder will have a headache of the right kind in selecting a team capable of closing the gap between them and Championship safety with victory over the Sky Blues.
“It's good competition,” said Doherty. “We have a few here now, probably four or five who can play at centre half, and that is what you need really, especially when you are bottom of the league.
“You need the lads fighting for that place and hopefully that is what is going to take this team up the league.”
Doherty has been back putting in the hours at Colney for the last couple of weeks and his return comes at an excellent time for Messrs Roeder and Clark, whose squad looks a lot healthier – certainly in terms of numbers ? since that dismal 3-0 defeat at Plymouth a week and a half ago.
With Mo Camara already slammed in to that troubled left-back slot and a possible addition or two en route to Norfolk before tomorrow's loan transfer deadline, Roeder will be hoping a few new faces will boost flagging spirits at Colney.
Now all the Canaries need is a win or two to get their season up and running, in turn, lifting the doom and gloom amongst the City faithful.
But it has been a frustrating period for Doherty – who has 34 caps for the Republic of Ireland – one that he just cannot wait to put behind him.
“You always want to get back training and playing your first game. I've been training hard for the last two weeks and it's nice to get a game under my belt.
“The injury feels fine, I got 65 minutes out there and I'll train again for the rest of the week so I'm sure it will be fine.”
In truth, his lengthy spell on the sidelines may have been significantly shorter, had it not been for the serious lack of bodies at the end of Peter Grant's reign as City chief.
Doherty was carrying his injury during the Carling Cup defeat at Manchester City and the two subsequent home games against Sheffield Wednesday and Scunthorpe; whilst it didn't necessarily affect his performances, in the long run, it probably did him more harm than good.
If the 27-year-old had nipped it in the bud early then he could have been back well before now, but, as Doherty admits, it was a case of needs must.
“I don't think it was a mistake to carry on playing. At that that time we were really struggling for centre-halves. Not like now.
“If it happened now I would have come off because we have plenty of centre-halves, but at the time Dion Dublin was suspended and Jason Shackell was suspended so it was only me and Ian (Murray) really and I had to soldier on against Scunthorpe and Sheffield Wednesday.
“They were two difficult games for me really, because I was struggling a little bit. Now I have got it all sorted hopefully it is onwards and upwards for me.”
And is he now ready for a return to the first-team picture for Saturday's crucial Championship showdown against Leon McKenzie and Co?
“I think I'll be in contention for Saturday. The gaffer has brought someone in (Taylor) and he's been doing well but I just want to be in contention for selection and hopefully get a game.
“It is disappointing being on the sidelines, especially having to watch games and my last game was Scunthorpe so I've missed about seven games or so now. Every footballer will tell you they are not a great watcher of a game so that has been disappointing, but I'm back now and ready to go.”