Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma admits he thought 'welcome back' after being clattered in one of his first clashes against Peterborough United on Sunday, in a game the Blues won 4-1.
Antonio Conte's men hosted the League One side in an FA Cup tie at Stamford Bridge and the Italian tactician took the chance to name Zouma in the starting eleven.
It was Zouma's first senior start of the season after being out with a serious knee injury and he was delighted to get stuck into action and complete 90 minutes.
And the Frenchman admits he knew he was back when he was knocked over during one of his first clashes with the opposition.
"I said in English in my head 'welcome back'", he smiled to L'Equipe.
Zouma says he feels he needs to still improve and get up to senior team speed, but he is pleased to have finally tasted first team action again.
"[I played] four matches [recently but], only twice 90 minutes, and I was with the reserve team for two months.
"But in my head [on Sunday] I was ready to meet the competition and engage in duels.
"It has been a long wait. It has inevitably affected my game. I still have to improve.
"Everyone wants to play, but I must be patient too", he added.
Zouma offers Blues boss Conte another vital option at the back as Chelsea head into a busy second half of the season during which they will try to remain at the top of the Premier League and push on in the FA Cup.
The defender also has to get used to a change in formation from when he was previously in the first team at Chelsea as Conte is deploying a system with three at the back.