This time last year, Carl McHugh was trying to come back down to earth after City’s giant-killing exploits at Wigan.

Twelve months on and the young centre half finds himself a fixture on the bench, still waiting for a sniff of League One action.

It is a very different scenario for McHugh after a whirlwind first season saw him score in a cup semi-final, play at Wembley and win international caps for the Republic of Ireland under-21s.

But he can also see the similarity with what unfolded at the same period last season.

He was well down the pecking order then, before serious injuries to both centre halves three days before the DW Stadium cup tie threw the first-team door unexpectedly wide open.

McHugh said: “I hadn’t really been involved much and then it turned round for me. That’s why you have to keep going and working hard, believing you will get your chance.

“Things happen in football and it changes very quickly. You have to be aware of that and not get too down on yourself.

“The situation could be completely different in a few weeks.

“Obviously it’s been frustrating. We’ve had a very settled team so far and the back four have done well in the majority of the games.

“Rory (McArdle) and Dava (Andrew Davies) were brilliant for the first ten or so, which makes it very hard to force your way in.”

City are well-stocked in central defence and Matt Taylor recently returned from a month at Colchester to get games. There was also talk of loaning out Luke Oliver.

The offer has not yet been put to McHugh, whose only involvement up to now has been in the two cup games.

He added: “It’s the manager’s decision who goes out on loan and nobody’s said anything so far.

“Any footballer will tell you they want to play every week and I’m no different.

“It’s a great club here and I’m just trying to be involved but obviously I miss it like mad when I’m not playing.”

His chance could have arrived against Tranmere three weeks ago when City found themselves minus Davies, McArdle and Taylor. But he was called up from the Republic’s stand-by list for under-21 bench duty.

City paid to have him flown home from Romania in time to be at Valley Parade, but only as an unused sub as Nathan Doyle filled the gap with Oliver.

McHugh added: “I wasn’t involved in training and they were obviously working on the centre-half pairing.

“There wasn’t a lot anyone could do about the situation.

“It was a great honour to be called up by the under-21s but ideally I’d rather have stayed here and given it my best shot at being available to play Tranmere. The way it panned out was disappointing.”

To add to his frustration, McHugh was not involved for the Irish either as they followed up a goalless away draw by losing 1-0 in the return match in Sligo.

There are four group games left, starting with the Faroe Islands in Ireland in a couple of weeks, but that home loss has made it unlikely they will qualify for the European Championship finals.

“It was good to be involved but again frustrating not to play. That’s the way it goes. A lot of the boys are playing every week for their club so you can’t have much of an argument at international level when you’re not.”