Max Stryjek has opened up on his frustration at not being allowed to leave Sunderland on loan during the January transfer window - having told Jack Ross he is not content with being third choice.
The young Polish stopper spent the first-half of the campaign on loan at National League side Eastleigh, where he made a strong impression during a three-month stay.
But the 22-year-old - whose contract at the Stadium of Light is set to expire this summer - was left frustrated when, on his return to the Stadium of Light, he was not allowed to return out on loan.
That hasn’t tainted the memories of a fine spell on the south coast for the ‘keeper, though - who relished the chance to test himself in a competitive environment.
“I think it was really enjoyable, to be fair, because I was there for three months and played every week,” said Stryjek, who is keen to extend his stay on Wearside.
“I think it was a really good spell in terms of physicality and men’s football.
“It was a good experience in general and I thought that I was ready to step-up my game and be higher.
“But unfortunately, the people’s [thoughts] behind [the scenes] were different and I wasn’t allowed to go on a loan, so that’s it.”
Stryjek has been a regular with the Under-23 squad since his return to Wearside and, while happy to build-up fitness with Elliott Dickman’s side, the stopper is targeting bigger things.
And he has made no secret of his desire to stake a claim for a first-team place, having left manager Ross in no doubt as to his thought.
The youngster added: “I’ve chatted with Jack Ross about it and I said to him at the beginning of the season that I’m not happy with being number three goalkeeper, especially after a good
pre-season spell when I played really well with the first-team and was performing well in training.
“I just said to him, if you don’t want me in the team then let me go on loan and show what I can do.
“I came back from Eastleigh and the plan was to let me go again, somewhere higher, but for different reasons I didn’t go.
“So I tried to do my best in the Under-23 team and perform well during those games, and that hopefully will give me a chance to still be in that team.”
And Stryjek certainly sees his future at the Stadium of Light - and is keen to prove his worth to Ross in the coming weeks in a bid to earn a new deal with the club.
“Yes, that’s my goal for this short period of time we’ve got,” he admitted.
“If I can do that, that would be really good.”