Despite making his first-team comeback this week, centre-back Jores Okore admits he could still leave Aston Villa in the winter transfer window.
Signing from FC Nordsjælland in June 2013 for around £4 million, amid reported interest from Chelsea, Okore made just four appearances during his first season at Villa before suffering a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament against Newcastle United in September.
He managed to return to the pitch during pre-season but, despite featuring twice for the club's reserves, as well as for both Denmark's senior side and Under-21s earlier in the campaign, continued to find Ron Vlaar, Philippe Senderos, Nathan Baker and Ciaran Clark ahead of him in the pecking order.
With injuries ruling the former three out of the Premier League clash against in-form Southampton on Monday night, however, the promising 22-year-old was handed a fresh chance to impress, and did not disappoint.
Helping Paul Lambert’s side battle to a 1-1 home draw, he admits it has been a frustrating time on the sidelines, but was more than relieved to return after a 14-month absence from the first-team line-up.
“It was really nice to come onto the pitch again and play Premier League,” he told Danish news outlet BT. “It was long ago, so it was really cool and I enjoyed it very much. It means a lot to me.
“It has been really stressful and a strange period where I have felt that I have been fit and good enough to play, but the manager has not seemed the same,” he continued.
“It was very strange not to be part of the squad and get the chance so I could prove that I was good enough to play. It has been a strange and frustrating period.”
Those comments suggest some lingering resentment towards Lambert, and Okore went on to stress that his future at Villa Park remains up in the air.
“I cannot offhand say whether this is the turning point of my choices about January and I have to see how things stand at the moment,” he said.
“My focus and interest is obviously to be allowed to play for Aston Villa, but if I do not get to play as much, I will focus on myself, and it's the way I should go.”
Nevertheless, with Vlaar, Senderos and Baker all expected to be out for a few more weeks, Okore looks set for a consistent run of games, and the 10-times capped international is relishing the challenge.
“It gives me no confidence with the others injured,” he added. “They'll be ready, and then fight for places again, but of course gives it something to look forward to, that I can prove my worth in the coming weeks. I will make it even harder for Paul Lambert to put me on the team.”