By Adam Clark
May 5, 2003. The final whistle blows at Highbury. Arsenal 6 Southampton 1. Unknowingly the Gunners have just notched the first win of an unbeaten run that will stretch to a record-breaking 49 matches.
Walking off the pitch, unaware of the wider significance of the result, Ryan Garry is buzzing having made only his second Arsenal appearance.
At that moment the then England youth international could have been forgiven for thinking his career was set to blossom. He would never have contemplated the multiple shin fractures that would keep him out of the game for three whole seasons.
Fit at last, Garry is appearing regularly in Neil Banfield's Reserves. The 23-year-old says every game he plays is taking him one step away from his three-year nadir. Now he's determined to prove he can still cut it in the Premiership.
"I'm not standing here thinking I'm happy just to be playing," Garry told Arsenal.com. "I need to be playing for a purpose and that is to get back to the level which I was at before, which was the first-team level. One positive from this injury is that it's made me much stronger mentally. If I don't get something I'll keep working on it until I do.
"I said to myself in the summer that this season is like starting again from scratch as a YTS player. I'm getting stronger the more training I do and the more games I play, but it's going to be a long while before I can say I'm at that level.
"I don't think there's any player around who's been out for the time I have for just one reason. It's hard mentally and there have been times when I've been head butting a wall and getting nowhere. I've got through three years but now I've got my foot in the door again and I've got another period ahead that's going to be hard but enjoyable too.
"I don't want to look too far forward because I've
done that in the past and not done what I wanted to achieve. This
time I'm just looking for the next step."