Since making his Vale debut away at Yeovil Town back in September 2017, James Gibbons has gone on to rack up 45 senior appearances to date, but only nine of those have come this season.
An injury earlier on in the season, combined with a dip in form and the strength in depth along the back line, has meant that the 20-year-old academy graduate has had to be patient for an opportunity to open up.
However, with Leon Legge and Mitch Clark being unavailable for the last couple of weeks, Gibbons has regained his place at right-back and he is determined to give his all in order to ensure he stays in the starting 11.
He said: "It's been very up and down for me personally. Last year I was a regular in the side and this season I've been in and out, but that's down to my performances and the competition for places.
"Various players have featured at right-back and we've used different formations, so the other lads are more than capable of filling in for me.
"I've been unlucky with an injury as well and that kept me out for a month. It was always going to be hard coming back into a team that was doing well, and it was a settled back four as well - It's now up to me to keep my place.
"I have been all right since I've come back in, but as a squad we were way off it at Morecambe. However, you just have to try and concentrate on grinding out a result, and we did that last Saturday. To come back from 2-0 down and pick up a point shows signs of a good team."
With Neil Aspin recruiting several new players during the summer transfer window, Gibbons was expecting there to be a battle for places in the squad, but he acknowledges at just how important that is if a club are to be successful.
As a young player, he admits that he has learned a vast amount from the more experienced players such as Leon Legge and Antony Kay, but he has also ensured that he has worked closely with Mitch Clark to develop too.
Now over a year on since making his Vale bow, Gibbons insists that he is a more mature footballer now, and he is confident that he can only keep on getting better with the more games he plays.
He said: "I was a little boy when I made my debut and I had only just turned 19, but I speak to all of the the experienced players every day and I learn all of the time - I can only improve.
"When you get a good run in the side and you hit nearly 40 games in a season like I did last year, you learn a lot. It's a man's game, you have to know how to take the criticism and you have to tell others when they're doing something wrong too.
"I've been fortunate to get my place back with Mitch and Leon being out, but hopefully I've done enough to stay in the side. Anyone can beat anyone in this league so you can't take anything for granted, plenty can change with a good or bad run."