Giampaolo Pazzini ended 2008 warming the bench for Fiorentina. Four months on and 'Il Pazzo' is celebrating scoring on his senior Italy debut.
Alberto Gilardino's arrival at Fiorentina last summer left Pazzini sidelined, but a January switch to Sampdoria has transformed his fortunes.
After striking eight times in ten Serie A appearances, the man that two years ago scored the first goal at the new Wembley Stadium after 28 seconds of a 3-3 Under-21 draw between Italy and England in which he claimed a hat-trick was given a first senior Azzurri call for Saturday's FIFA World Cup qualifier in Montenegro.
On as a substitute just before the hour, Pazzini took less than 15 minutes to head the clincher in a 2-0 win that opens up a two-point Group 8 lead over the Republic of Ireland, who visit Bari on Wednesday.
"It's really a brilliant period for me," said the 24-year-old. "In a couple of months my life has changed. I managed to find the right motivation and tonight's goal is like a dream.
"I was already proud to make my Italy debut, but then scoring a goal which helped us to win is as good as it gets. It was a night to remember for me."
Italy are aiming to emulate their nation's achievement in 1938 of successfully defending the World Cup, and Pazzini is delighted to be part of the attempt.
"The unity of the squad is the real key for the success of this team," Pazzini said. "When I joined the squad on Monday I had a great feeling.
"Everybody tried to help me, even the most experienced players in the team, people who won the World Cup in 2006. They made everything easy for me and I was very honoured to train and play with them."
At Sampdoria, Pazzini's partnership with Antonio Cassano has reminded fans of the glory days of Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli. But although Cassano was not called into the Italy squad, Pazzini proved just as adept in linking up with Simone Pepe, who set up his goal.
"Cassano is definitely helping me to score with Sampdoria but Simone Pepe gave me a fantastic ball tonight," Pazzini said. "It was a perfect cross and I just had to put my head on the ball. I still can't believe I that I scored on my debut, it feels great."