Jonny Howson admits his time on the Norwich sidelines has only increased his appetite to be involved in the fight for Barclays Premier League survival.
Norwich go to relegation-threatened Wigan tomorrow six positions and seven points ahead of the league’s 18th-placed side, yet midfielder Howson, confined to a role on the bench for periods of the current campaign, is aware that defeat could suck the Canaries into danger.
Howson said: “The season was always going to go down to the wire and if you start to look too far ahead you can get caught out.
“It is a big game with Wigan down there but we’ll keep working hard and hopefully we’ll be okay. You have to have the mentality that you will survive.”
It is Howson’s first full season at Carrow Road, having been signed from Leeds in January 2012 - and he has made 22 appearances from 30 league matches this season, eight of them as a substitute.
Howson said: “I would have loved to have played more games but it is about the team. If it was up to me I would be playing every single week but sometimes you learn from not playing.
“It makes you stronger as a player and when you get the chance you have got to take it or you will be back on the sidelines. Your job on the bench is to keep others on their toes.”
It is no surprise that Howson’s best work has come in tandem with midfielder Bradley Johnson, a team-mate he is familiar with from their days together at Elland Road.
They were impressive in the 1-1 draw against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light last time out and while Howson has started the last four league matches he is aware that Alexander Tettey returned to training this week following a knee injury, putting pressure once more on his selection.
Howson is ready to accept the challenge.
“You want competition for places, then no-one can switch off,” Howson said. “Being on the bench doesn’t change your ability, it changes your mentality.
“You learn from your experience. I came here for competition and a better level of football and it has made me much hungrier as a player.”
Howson also welcomes the £8.5million signing of striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon, although he admits the dressing room chatter has been more about the 24-year-old’s name than his reputation for goals.
The Dutchman will join Norwich in July on a four-year deal and Howson said: “When you sign a top quality player you can look at it two ways - either ‘That’s my position gone’ or ‘I’ve got to up my game’.
“You want to work with the very best. We are encouraged more than anything, it makes you better as a player.”
Goals have been scarce among manager Chris Hughton’s side this season. They have scored 28 in 30 matches with only Stoke (27) and QPR (26) having a poorer record.
By contrast Wigan have struck 35 times in 29 matches and Hughton, who confirmed Lee Camp will start in goal with Mark Bunn suspended, is aware of the danger they pose as they attempt to launch yet another late-season rescue act.
Hughton said: “Wigan are on a good run. They have been in this position before and have probably played better this season than in other seasons.
“In the last two games we have seen an indication of what they can do. Against Everton (in the FA Cup quarter final) away was a good as you will see and they have got that character to get a last-minute winner against Newcastle.
“They have an excellent manager in Roberto Martinez, a very calm manager who is used to being in this position. You hope they don’t have a good day.”