After making 36 appearances over the course of his breakthrough season in a Vale shirt during 2017/18, James Gibbons has endured a frustrating start to the current campaign due to injury problems.
The 20-year-old featured four times in the opening month of the Sky Bet League Two season, but a hip problem has forced the defender out of action for the past six weeks.
However, he made his long awaited return on Tuesday night as Vale came out on top versus Middlesbrough U21s in the Checkatrade trophy. Gibbons only played for the first 45 minutes, but he was relieved to back out on the pitch.
He said: "It has been a frustrating month or so for me injury wise, but it's good to be back in full training and it was nice to get some minutes in on Tuesday as well.
"I had a slight tear in my hip so I had a scan and then went to see a specialist to get a few injections, but it has all cleared now so I'm all right.
"It has been very frustrating because I came in off the back of a good year and I wanted to keep the momentum going, but I had a slight dip in form this season and I was taken out of the team which is fair enough.
"Mitch Clark has come in as well so there is great competition, but as a footballer you have to have the right mindset, thinking positively to believe that you're going to get back into the side again."
Having made his debut away to Yeovil Town in Sky Bet League Two on 23rd September 2017, the full-back now boasts plenty of experience despite his age, and he insists the past 12 months have been crucial to his progress.
With a trip to Oldham Athletic to come on Saturday afternoon, Gibbons is hoping to force his way into Neil Aspin's squad and push to earn his place on the right-hand side of Vale's defence.
He said: "I'm more than happy with how things have gone because the plan last season was for me to go out on loan, but then I made my debut and got a good run in the side.
"It was a worldie season for me in that sense because I wasn't expected to get many minutes.
"In terms of position I don't mind where I play. As a four when you have the right players alongside you it's good, for example Leon Legge who is a great talker and Nathan Smith who I have grown up playing with.
"Leggey is a big player around the dressing room as well, he will pull you to the side and have a chat to tell you what he thinks - he is an honest lad and it's good to have his experience.
"When you're injured you just want to get fit and work your way back into the team, so hopefully I proved in the 45 minutes on Tuesday that I have enough to be in the side again."