Dejan Lovren admits he "started from zero again" after a period on the sidelines at Liverpool, and says the whole team is behind Joe Gomez after a turbulent few weeks.
Lovren struggled with injuries during the 2018/19 campaign, playing in just 18 games in all competitions. He started slowly this season too, failing to make the first six Premier League matchday squads and mostly restricted to spots on the bench elsewhere.
But the Croatia international has now started in four of the last five Premier League games, and Lovren admits that he had to start from scratch to force himself back into Jurgen Klopp's plans.
"I started from zero again to prove that I deserve to be in the first XI but that's football," he told Sky Sports News.
"When you've been out for months in the last season and didn't have so many minutes on the pitch, it's about restarting. In pre-season, I did hard work behind the scenes and again, maybe it didn't start as well as I thought it would, but I've been speaking with the manager, been patient and sometimes it's easy to say that but not to do.
"I did it in the end and everything came back... It's good to feel that you're important here again and this is what matters for every player."
There were rumours in the summer that Lovren could move away from Anfield, with teams in Italy reportedly interested, but after a chat with Klopp, he decided to stay.
The defender added: "It's a big place to leave after everything I went through here. There have been more positive days than the bad, especially after the Champions League final and the win was a big relief for me because I wanted to win something with this club, having been here for so many years.
"I would ask myself if we didn't win, should I stay or not and there was some interest with some other clubs but I had a good conversation with the manager. After that, the decision was easy so I stayed and I think we are on the right path to do something big this season again."
'Gomez reacted well to booing incident'
While Lovren gets himself back to his best, his fellow defender Gomez has faced a difficult period. A confrontation with Raheem Sterling during Liverpool's 3-1 win against Manchester City before the international break spilled over into the England camp, leading to the winger being dropped for a European Qualifier against Montenegro.
Gomez came on as a substitute in the 7-0 win, but was booed by England fans. He subsequently picked up a knee injury and did not travel for England's final qualifying game against Kosovo, with Lovren fully supporting his team-mate as he prepares to get back to action.
"I think he reacted well, to be honest," Lovren said. "I've been speaking with him two or three days ago and asked about it and he was OK, positive and this is what is important for the club and his team-mates. We are behind him and that's what he needs at the moment.
"He's an unbelievable man and player but it's aggravated everything about that and he didn't deserve it. You're playing for the national team and he's there, giving his best so I don't think he deserved the boos."
'Good to have Mourinho back in the Premier League'
The big story this week has been Jose Mourinho's return to management, taking the place of Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham, and Lovren welcomed him back to the Premier League.
He said: "I can only say good words about Mourinho. When you look at his history, wherever he went, he achieved something. People talked about Man Utd not having a good few months or a year but he won something again with them and he showed that at many other clubs.
"He is one of the best managers in the world and it's great to see him back in the Premier League because he's an interesting figure. It will also be a great push for Tottenham because when you look back over the last few weeks or months, they didn't have the best results.
"But it will not change anything towards Pochettino or what he did there. They managed to be in the Champions League final with us and it's a big achievement for them."
Matip: I want to be back as soon as possible
Lovren has found himself in the first team because of a knee injury sustained by teammate Joel Matip, and the Cameroonian says that he is working hard to get himself back fit.
Matip told Sky Sports News: "I don't want to put a time on it. I'm just taking my time and we'll see.
"Of course it's hard to get injured but unfortunately that's the life of a player. I am working hard at the moment to get back.
"I'm always trying to do my best, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Hopefully I'm back as soon as possible."
Matip was part of the Liverpool team that got 97 points but finished second behind Manchester City last season, and the defender is keen to learn from last season's failure as the Reds chase their first Premier League title.
"You can learn from everything. Even if you fail. It was a hard time but we didn't do too badly last season and we'll try to improve," he said.
"We are in November, it's so early in the season. We just want to win the next game and we'll see.
"It's great to be in this position, we've worked really hard to be here but we cannot rest. There's no time to rest."