Sol Campbell has found himself playing alongside a number of partners as our defensive line changes but our reserves keep plugging the gaps.
Even Sol himself was sidelined for 10 games with a shoulder injury and now that regular sidekick Chris Perry has damaged his shin, our captain has been operating at the heart of a young home-grown group whose performances have given him a great deal of pride.
With Mauricio Taricco, Ben Thatcher and Stephen Carr all out of the defensive picture at various times, the likes of Gary Doherty, Ledley King, Luke Young and Alton Thelwell have seized the opportunity to demonstrate their worth.
Doherty’s form alongside Campbell has been something special with King matching the Irishman’s versatility with seamless transitions from midfield to defence. Young has also shown he is willing and able to fulfil any role while Thelwell’s strength is his relaxed ability to come in anywhere and do a solid job.
"True, there is no substitute for experience but the only place for these young guys to enhance their craft is in the first team," says Sol. "The more they play, the more they benefit and for now it’s all about the amount of playing time that these young players get.
"They have to learn their trade in the first team at the highest level because that’s where they’ll want to perform. You can’t beat that experience because there is a massive difference between first team and reserves.
"The other plus is that it’s nice to see your own home-grown players succeed and I think the fans enjoy that also.
"And all credit to these youngsters because they are doing a great job. Their success also means that our senior players are not getting rushed back. They can recover fully and return stronger, coming back into the team at their best and giving us all a positive lift."
Like all players, Sol’s career started in the same way with the odd chance here and there and then a decent run in the side. He too was versatile with an ability to play at full-back or in midfield, but somewhere along the line, he insists, you have to find your vocation and specialise in that position.
"Once I got in I played something like 21 straight games and was then disappointed when I had to rest but that’s how it happens with any youngster," he continues. "Before that, I was in and out, finding my feet — and finding my position.
"In the end, you have to say ‘right this is it, this is where I want to play and this is where I want to stay’. In the meantime, if there’s an injury you must always be prepared to help out and that’s what our young lads are currently doing and they are doing it extremely well.
"However, in an ideal situation, you’ll always need experience in there so we’ve done well to maintain our good run and keep things ticking along.
"As a result there’s more self belief creeping in because unbeaten runs breed confidence and confidence brings better results. It’s a great circle to be in but one that’s got to be maintained by so many different things.
"True, we’ve had a bit of luck along the way while on other occasions we have played some fantastic stuff. On the whole, I would say that we’ve played quite well over the past nine undefeated games but you need a mixture of football and fortune to get you through. It’s all about getting results and getting the right results."
Now the FA Cup looms ahead and Campbell is looking forward to playing West Ham United at Upton Park in the sixth round. He’s got a lot of affection for the Hammers, coming from Newham as he does and having trained with them as a youngster.
"We’ve had a fabulous run and we’re determined to keep it going," he vows. "We had a good start at Leyton Orient, then staged a great recovery at Charlton and followed that up with a nice win here against Stockport. It would be great if we could go all the way without leaving London!
"But this is where it gets a little bit hard, whoever comes along now is going to be that much more difficult. There’s a lot of tough work ahead before we can start thinking about Cardiff and we know that we’ve got to play well on a consistent basis, mixed in with that stroke of luck I mentioned, to get there.
"Every pro left in the competition shares that dream. Yes, it would a be a great honour to lift the cup but I’m not alone in that ambition and we will only get what we earn.
"West Ham? A wonderful club. I enjoyed my time there as a kid and they seem to be a club that is going places.
"As I always say, it’s all down to what you do on the day. We want to progress, they want to progress. It’s up to us to make it happen."
By John Fennelly.