It took four years for Brad Guzan to establish himself as Villa No.1 and he is still trying live up to the expectation.
The stopper is Paul Lambert’s undisputed first choice between the sticks yet admits he must keep improving to deserve the jersey.
He returns to Hull with Villa tomorrow where he spent a half-season on loan in the Championship in 2011 as his claret-and-blues career stuttered.
A year later and he was even allowed to leave Villa Park before Lambert convinced him to make a U-turn when he became manager in the summer of 2012.
Guzan then ousted Shay Given after two games of last season and has not looked back but, as he returns to the KC Stadium, he admits he needs to justify his place.
“Some great goalkeepers have worn the No.1 here and I’m trying to live up to the individuals who were before me,” said Guzan, who made 16 appearances for Hull.
“I don’t necessarily look on myself as No.1. I just want to be one of the guys who can be counted on. “Every day you have to prove yourself to your team-mates and to the manager – if you don’t you will be dropped.
“It’s not a big deal for me. Numbers are what they are. I was content with being No.22 and my training kit is still that number.
“I didn’t know I was going to be switching. What I try to do when I step out onto the training pitch or Villa Park is to make sure the other guys have confidence in me to help them get a result.”
Given has been sidelined at Villa and the ex-Ireland international was expected to leave during the summer but failed to land a move.
Lambert signed Jed Steer from Norwich as back-up to Guzan with the England Under-19 international making two League Cup appearances so far.
Barring injury or drastic loss of form, Guzan is Villa’s No.1 and he can sympathise with Steer.
“We have a special bond, the goalkeepers’ union, if you will, and we know only one of us can play,” said the 29-year-old.
“We work together for about 45 minutes before joining up with the other outfield players and training every day means you are always pushing each other to get better.
“But we also know we’re trying to get into that starting XI. I’ve been in a situation when you’re not picked and all you can do is get your head down, work hard and be ready to take your chance when it comes.
“Jed pushes me every day in training and makes sure I’m at my best. I did the same for Brad (Friedel) and Shay, which made them better and ultimately made the team better. I waited for four years but you always have to remember no-one is bigger than the team.”
Villa are hunting a third straight win after their victories over Norwich and last weekend’s stunning 3-2 success against Manchester City.
Guzan also ended the wait for a league clean sheet when he kept the first shutout in 27 games in the 1-0 win over Norwich.
Hull have defied predictions as the early-season whipping boys and sit a point ahead of Villa in the Premier League.
And Guzan insisted Villa cannot let their performances drop after impressive outings against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and City already this term.
He said: “We have set the standard and we know what we’re capable of as individuals and as a team.
“Before the Arsenal game not many people would have given us a chance of picking up any points from the first three games. Not only have we done that but the work ethic has been really good.”
Christian Benteke (hip) is out while Jores Okore (knee) and Charles N’Zogbia (Achilles) are long-term absentees. Ashley Westwood (thigh) and Gabby Agbonlahor (ankle) could return.
Hull’s four-goal top scorer Robbie Brady is out after a hernia operation.