The last couple of months have been a steep learning curve for Joost van Aken.
The 23-year-old centre-half has featured on 10 occasions since arriving from Dutch club Heerenveen but has been in and out of the Wednesday team.
His performances have been inconsistent.
Van Aken impressed in the Owls’ draws at Cardiff City and Reading, helping nullify dangerous forwards in the shape of Kenneth Zohore and Yann Kermorgant.
But he has looked shaky in other matches and made costly errors.
And his patchy form prompted Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal to leave him out of the starting eleven at Derby County in October. It was the first time Carvalhal had dropped van Aken and the defender was not involved in four of the five fixtures after the trip to Pride Park. Glenn Loovens partnered Tom Lees at centre-back.
Van Aken told The Star: “It was tough mentally keeping myself going. It is not nice when you are not playing. As a footballer, you want to play.
“I know I have to improve a few things so I’m working hard in training every day to get better.
“Of course, I want to play every game but I understood the decision of the manager.
“It was just a case of making sure I was ready when he needed me.”
Van Aken described losing his place in the Owls team as a “different experience”. The Haarlem-born player was a first-team regular at Heerenveen, making 26 appearances for the top-flight Dutch outfit in their mid-table finish last term.
“It was a little bit strange,” he conceded. “I’m not used to sitting on the bench.
“When I was fit in Holland, I, luckily, played all the games.
“It was a different experience being on the bench but I’m still a young player and I have to improve.”
Van Aken is hungry to learn, listen and get better. While he was on the bench, he meticulously studied Loovens and Lees in an attempt to improve his own game.
Van Aken said: “Glenn and Tom have a lot of experience so when they are playing I try to watch them to learn what they are doing. They are clever players. When I was on the bench during a game, I watched them specifically to learn from them.
“Both players try to help me and I listen to them.
“I think I can learn from them both with the way they play and the experience they have.”
Lees’ groin injury saw van Aken return to action at Reading.
“I heard on the Friday I was in the squad and I was happy to be back playing,” he said. “I hoped, for sure, I would play and I prepared normally like I always do.
“You never know when you will come back into the team but when you come back in you have to be ready.
“I tried to work hard in training, stay fit and improve my abilities.”
Alongside Loovens, van Aken produced an assured display to help the Owls keep only a fourth clean sheet of a disappointing campaign.
He said: “It was the first time I had played with Glenn. It helps playing next to someone with his experience and it was nice we could communicate in Dutch. We sometimes communicate in Dutch. When you have to say something fast, it helps to say it in Dutch as that is my language.
“But we couldn’t communicate all the time in Dutch at Reading because they also had a lot of players who are Dutch!”