Shaun Byrne has been one of Dundee’s most consistent performers in a Championship campaign littered with inconsistency.
Form went up and down for the team but generally Byrne was there in the middle of the park, keeping the ball, winning tackles and shining, even on dark days.
However, in recent weeks he has found himself on the bench watching on as the Dark Blues picked up a run of results.
His start against Dunfermline on Tuesday night was his first in the league since a 2-2 draw at Greenock Morton at the end of February.
“I’m not going to lie, the last four or five weeks has been really frustrating for myself being out of the team,” he said.
“I just kept my head down, I’m not one to mump and moan.
“To be fair, the boys in the middle of the park in Gowser (Paul McGowan) and Max (Anderson) have been different class recently.
“I’m glad to be back in the team and I can hopefully pick up my form from January and have a good end to the season.”
‘I hadn’t done anything wrong’
After a first campaign at Dens Park where Byrne himself admitted he hadn’t shown all he was capable of, the former Livingston midfielder was determined to up his game second time around.
“That’s what made it more frustrating. I felt I was playing pretty well,” he said.
“But we changed the middle and obviously we got some wins so that was good.
“To be fair, the manager spoke to me every week saying I hadn’t done anything wrong but we were picking up results.
“He was happy with my attitude and the way I applied myself, I never chucked the toys out of the pram or anything.
“I came in against St Johnstone and felt I’d done pretty well so it was hard to be back out of the team after.
“Then Maxy and Gowser both score at Ayr on the Tuesday so it was a genius decision from the gaffer!
“It’s been frustrating because I feel I’ve been playing really well this year.
“But I’m here to help the team.”
Dundee boss James McPake certainly isn’t short of quality central midfield options – club captain and talisman Charlie Adam has also been on the bench next to Byrne of late.
McGowan and Anderson have been the choice lately and both have been picking up key goals and laying on assists for team-mates in vital victories.
Add to that the return of Jordan McGhee, the defender who has been a revelation when moved into the middle of the park this season.
With only two starting berths to fight for in the system that has seen the Dark Blues pick up 11 points in their last five matches, competition is fierce.
“Jordan has been out for a while so it is testament to him for coming in and playing so well,” Byrne added.
“The competition in the middle of the park is really tough, to be honest.
“We have a lot of really good players there – Charlie Adam, Gowser, Max, Jordan and young Fin Robertson when he comes back.
“It is strong competition so you do need to be on it.
I think that’s what has pushed everybody on. You can see the standard in training has pushed up a notch with boys coming back.
“I maybe did dip after the Hearts game so maybe that’s why I came out but hopefully now I can pick up the form and stay in the team.
“I think everybody will have a part to play before now and the end of the season.
“It has been frustrating, I won’t lie.
“But I’ve kept my head down and worked really hard.
“Hopefully, I can have a good end to the season.”