As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining and that's certainly been the case here this season.
While a number of our more experienced stars have been sidelined through injury, their absence has opened the door for many of our younger players, presenting them with opportunities in the first team they may not have expected so early in their careers.
Nobody is more aware of this than Dave McEwen, our 23-year-old striker who, in the space of just over a year, has gone from non-league football to the Premiership.
Dave is very much a realist and knows that his chance has only arisen due to the prolonged absence of Steffen Iversen, Les Ferdinand and Chris Armstrong in attack, but he is also mindful of the fact that, if you get your opportunity, you have to take it.
"Obviously, I would rather be in the squad on merit and because I am banging in the goals for the reserves, leaving the manager no option but to pick me," says Dave. "But it doesn't really matter how you get into the first team squad, once you are there that's it. You just have to try to do your best and hope you perform well enough to get another chance.
"Opportunities like these don't come around very often and you have to make the most of them."
McEwen made his debut last season here against Derby County in April but then had to wait until last month for his next appearance. He replaced Willem Korsten in the 63rd minute of our Premiership clash at Goodison Park, but the whole occasion was one surprise after another.
"I was only called into the squad at the very last minute on the Friday, just before the coach was due to leave," explains Dave. "I had to rush home and get my stuff, but I was delighted to be included. Once in the squad I then didn't expect to be on the bench, and then I certainly wasn't expecting to play."
He was then back on the bench the following game here against Southampton and was presented with another opportunity to further his footballing education when he replaced Les in the early stages of the game.
However, despite having time to make his mark on the match, Dave was disappointed with his performance. "I just felt in the Southampton game that I didn't do as well as I could have done, I didn't express myself enough or play with enough confidence," he says. "That was disappointing for me."
The final part in his trilogy of appearances came at Upton Park, once again as a substitute. "Suddenly, I'm playing against the likes of Di Canio, Cole, and Carrick, quality players and it's a great feeling as well as being good experience."
Unfortunately though, Dave's run of games ended when he too picked up an injury from which he is still recovering today.
"I took a knock in training at the base of my left ankle, but I'm relieved to hear it's not as bad as first thought," reveals Dave. "But it means I'm missing out on more potential appearances which is obviously frustrating. I just have to rest to give it time to recover."
Now that he has broken into the squad, Dave is anxious to stay there and he believes this is just the right club for players like himself as the coaching staff are not afraid of blooding youngsters into the first team.
"It's been excellent for the younger players this season," he says. "It helps that some of them have done really well and had extended runs in the side, such as Ledley King, Gary Doherty and Alton Thelwell. It gives the manager confidence to use more young players and it gives people like myself a boost too, knowing that if you're playing well enough you will be given a chance."
As for the remainder of the season, McEwen feels we've got plenty to look forward to and that even the league is not the lost cause many people are predicting.
"Once we get our players back from injury and now that we are starting to transfer our home form into our away games, we can get a good run going and squeeze into the top six," he says. "The FA Cup isn't just our last resort, we could be in with a shout of Europe in the league.
"We have to feel optimistic about the Cup as well. Today's game will be a hard match, we realise that having already played lower league opposition in Birmingham City and Brentford. We can't take games like this lightly, but it is a great chance to progress into the quarter finals."
By Jon Rayner