Jay Spearing has proved he can cut it in the Liverpool first team this season - now he is aiming to take his game to the next level.
The 23-year-old from Wirral has been one of the first names on Kenny Dalglish's teamsheet of late due to a series of assured displays.
His chance to impress followed a knee injury sustained by Lucas Leiva at Stamford Bridge in November which ruled out the Brazilian for the remainder of 2011-12.
Having shown himself to be a reliable stand-in in games such as our FA Cup semi-final last weekend, Spearing now hopes he can be seen as far more than a deputy.
"I played in the semi-final," the midfielder told the Daily Mirror. "I have played in the big games, and that is what I wanted. Now I have got the final to aim for, and I want to play.
"That shows where I have come. I still have to go forward though. This summer my target will be different - I have to aim for the next level.
"For me, I think I've made the breakthrough into the squad and proved I can be relied on, but the step up to the next level is to be seen as a player who is in there week in, week out, even when the best players are fit.
"I have to prove I am good enough to play alongside Stevie G or Lucas week in, week out, not in place of them. I'm under no illusions, they are all qualities players.
"There are those two, Charlie Adam, Jordan, Jonjo - they are all players of incredible quality. It's the challenge, though, isn't it? To get there."
Spearing made his debut for Liverpool as a substitute in a Champions League encounter with PSV in December 2008.
Four months later the Kop sang his name during an electrifying cameo against Real Madrid.
His progress wasn't always speedy in the years that followed but Spearing did not doubt he would make a career at a high level.
He added: "I guess it is just belief. I knew, even at the worst times, that if I could keep going, keep driving then I would get a chance, and the rest was up to me.
"I played against Real Madrid, and the very next day I was at Warrington, playing for the reserves. It makes you laugh now, the contrast of that, but they are the things you have to go through, the things that make or break you.
"There have been so many times since then when I thought I wouldn't get there, I would have to go away and prove elsewhere that I could play at Liverpool's level. But I suppose I've always had that fight within me to keep going no matter what, and it has taken me a long time, but it has paid off."
One obstacle Spearing has faced, at least in the perception of others, is his height - five feet, six inches.
"I have always had that height thing," he said. "I've never played for England at any level - all the way through, it was about height," he said.
"But I've had it all my life, so it's not exactly new to me. Look at me - I've never been the tallest, have I? People are always asking if it causes a problem, but when you're a kid trying to break through there are always going to be problems and it's how you deal with it.
"That is something I've had against me, but there is nothing I can do about that other than be determined not to let it affect me and find a way to deal with it.
"In my case, I knew I had to be good enough with the ball at my feet to stop it being an issue and that is what I have worked on all through.
"I have that fight within me - I've had to have that! It's helped me keep a positive attitude. When I broke my leg at the academy I was out for nine months and quite a few lads I came through with all got promoted into the senior squads, while I stayed down.
"I really thought my chance had gone, they were going and leaving me behind, and it really hit me. But I have got a strong family behind me. Their backing, their confidence and their belief in me kept me going through that time.
"It has taken a long time, but when you are a kid trying to come through at a club the size of Liverpool, there are so many things you have against you. You can get demoralised and lose interest, say it's too difficult and you won't make it.
"But I have always had that desire in myself that I wanted to make it at this level, to play for MY club, the club I have always supported. The only way to get there was to fight with every ounce of everything I had."
Fight he did, and it eventually paid off, with chances being presented by Roy Hodgson, and even more frequently under Kenny Dalglish.
"That gave me some belief," he said. "Kenny speaks to me every day, and I find that having someone like that putting confidence in me makes me want to go out there every game and prove his judgement correct.
"When I came into the first-team squad at the beginning, I was star-struck - I didn't even want to say hello to Steven Gerrard because he was who he was and was someone who I looked up to so much.
"There were the likes of him, Xabi Alonso, Mascherano, Lucas - all world-class talents. When you first join that, you don't want to say anything to them, even though you've got to ask for the ball, you think, 'I can't shout at him!'
"You've got to adapt, though, because the aim is to get to their level and play alongside them.
"You can't be star-struck for too long, otherwise you won't make it.
"I looked at them, and I thought, 'What puts them above me? What can I take from them that will get me there?' I am still doing that."