STERN JOHN is backing international team-mate Clayton Ince to follow in his footsteps by taking his chance when it presents itself in tomorrow's FA Cup clash at Brighton.
The Trinidad and Tobago striker is hoping his compatriot can put himself back in the Coventry City picture when he fills in for Marton Fulop in goal at the Withdean Stadium. The on-loan keeper is not allowed to play for the Sky Blues because Tottenham do not want him to be Cup-tied in case they need to call on him later in the season.
Although Ince has been the regular first-team understudy this season, bar two Carling Cup outings and one league game, the former Crewe player is not exactly in favour after publicly admitting he needs to get out on loan himself in order to secure first-team football and put himself in the World Cup frame.
Ince also feels hard done by after getting just one Championship game when Stephen Bywater was recalled to West Ham, before Fulop was drafted in from Spurs.
"I am sure Clayton will be itching to show the manager what he can do," said John, who has forced himself-back into favour at City against all the odds.
"When they bought him in the summer I knew he was a good keeper but he has never really had the chance to do anything."
John and Ince kept in touch while the striker was on loan at Derby when they often exchanged words of comfort in a bid to keep their heads up during difficult spells in their careers.
"He has been patient and as long as he continues to play as he has in training, where he has been brilliant, he will be OK," said John. "I am not just saying that because he is from Trinidad, but because he is a good keeper. And hopefully he will have a good game at Brighton and put pressure on Marton."
John's own fortunes hit rock bottom when he was first booed by the Coventry faithful last season and then again by the Derby fans when he went on loan to Pride Park,
But he was buoyed by the standing ovation he received at the Ricoh Arena when he was substituted late in the Wolves game on Monday.
"The reaction from the fans when I went off felt really good and it made me feel really welcome to be at
Coventry for once in my career," said the 29-year-old forward.
"I have been working really hard to get back in the team and hopefully that will continue with me giving the fans something to cheer about. They just want to see players who have a go, and hopefully I am doing that.
"Things didn't work out for me at Derby but that is part of football. I am back at Coventry now, which is the club I signed for, and hopefully I can help move the team up the table."
But next up is the third round of the Cup - a competition that has not produced much success for John to date, but one that he knows all about.
"I know the FA Cup is a big thing in England," he said. "I didn't really understand that when I first came here but I know now.
"It means so much to every team, and that includes us, so we will be going down to Brighton, rolling our sleeves up and having a good go at winning.
"We go there in a confident mood but we don't want to be too over confident because anything can happen in the Cup. But hopefully we can go and win the game and get a Premiership club in the fourth round."
As for John's longer term future, he clearly has half an eye on that other prestigious competition that takes place in Germany in the summer.
"This is a big year for me and my country and I need to keep working hard and playing first team football," he said. "The manager will be coming over and watching us play for our clubs and you need to be playing to get in the squad.
"This is something that players dream about. It is big for any player's career and life because it is one of the biggest things you can play in."