What a difference a year can make - the contrast in Bradford City’s fortunes have been matched by the change in circumstances for Stephen Darby.
Twelve months ago he was in a Rochdale side that could not buy a win at the bottom of League One. They had not managed a victory in any competition since the start of October – and it would be another three weeks before that drought was finally ended.
Now he is a regular cog in City’s push on promotion and cup fronts and enjoying every minute of the ride.
“There’s a massive difference,” admitted the 24-year-old right back. “It feels a lot better as a player because you’re at the right end of the table.
“You go into games with a lot more confidence and that plays such a big part. It’s having that positive mentality from getting good results.
“That’s how we’ve been this season and we’ve got to keep building on that.”
Tomorrow’s trip to Barnet will mark Darby’s 25th appearance since being released by Liverpool last summer. He’s not yet reached the marathon levels of defensive partners Rory McArdle and James Meredith but he has established his role since the double injury blow at centre half forced an autumn reshuffle.
With McArdle a permanent fixture in the middle to cover the extended absence of Andrew Davies and Luke Oliver, Darby has made the right-back berth his own with consistent displays.
Darby came off the bench to replace Oliver on that fateful afternoon at Burton. Apart from a rare breather in the FA Cup replay at Brentford, when Ritchie Jones was converted to full back for the night, he has missed only one league game through a fatigue injury.
He added: “It’s going okay for me but the main thing is that the team are doing well. We’re in a good position and it’s up to us to give it another push for the rest of the season.
“You can’t get too carried away and look beyond the next game. The league is very tight and you’ve got to keep the consistency going and fight to the end for every point.”
Having leaked four against Rochdale, City’s defence were back on song with a New Year’s Day clean sheet at Morecambe. The much-improved goals against column has played a big part in the campaign so far and they were keen to prove last weekend was a freakish blip.
Darby said: “As a defender, it’s always disappointing to concede goals but you don’t dwell on it and we’ve moved on now.
“The record had been pretty good up to Saturday so we wanted to get it out the system. Conceding four at home is something that shouldn’t happen so you want to put things right straight away.
“The good thing about football is that there’s always another game around the corner, particularly during this period.
“We’ve had games every Saturday and Tuesday for most of the season but the fitness levels have been great.
“The games are coming thick and fast again so you’ve to stay strong both mentally and physically. We’ve already had game after game with the cup run we’ve had.
“But that can be good because you get on a roll when things are going well. Then you can’t wait for the next game to come.”