A positive for Liverpool on an otherwise frustrating night at Leicester City on Tuesday was the return to first-team action of Danny Ings after an 11-month absence.
Little under a year after the striker suffered the second serious knee injury of his Reds career, Ings took a huge step in his rehabilitation as a second-half substitute at King Power Stadium.
Collectively, it was an evening to forget for the club as Jürgen Klopp’s team were eliminated from the Carabao Cup at the third-round stage by a 2-0 defeat to the Foxes.
There was a silver lining for Ings on a personal level, however, with his appearance from the bench the culmination of months of hard work and mental strength in recovery.
“It was mixed emotions really,” he told Liverpoolfc.com. “You want to get the win and you want it to be the perfect night, getting minutes after the long road to recovery, but it wasn’t our night in the end.
“But on a personal note, it’s great to be back part of it, being around the lads and getting used to travelling away. It was good to be back and hopefully I can build on that.”
Ings had previously played five games and scored one goal for the U23s as Neil Critchley’s side have made a perfect start to their Premier League 2 campaign.
The Englishman has been grateful for the opportunity to build up match sharpness with the in-form young Reds, but admitted nothing compares to senior competitive football.
“Being with the U23s is great for me because after such a long time out it’s the perfect platform to build your fitness up in and get used to your surroundings on the pitch,” he said.
“Critch and all the staff and players down there have been great in helping me try to get to my best again.
“It’s a different scenario when you’re playing first-team football – the stadium’s full, you’ve got the atmosphere, you’ve got the adrenaline going through your body. To get that feeling back was probably the biggest thing for me because it’s what I’ve been craving for such a long time.
“Even though it was such a short spell on the pitch and we didn’t get the result, it was a positive in the steps I’m taking on a personal level.”
After two years of dreadful luck, Ings has no intention of looking too far ahead.
Instead, the 25-year-old is focused on putting himself in the finest shape possible to be of benefit to Klopp’s charges for the rest of the season.
He added: “It’s such a serious injury so you’ve got to take it day by day without setting too high expectations at this stage. It’s about getting fit and getting to the best that I can be.
“Once I feel like I’m at my best again, I’ll build on that. I think last year I probably put a bit too much pressure on myself to try and impress everybody straight away when I knew it was going to be a difficult road after overcoming a serious injury.
“This time, I want to do as well as I can for the team, for the club – but I’ve got to make sure I’m focused on getting in the best shape I can be in order to do so.”