Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock was full of praise for Kadeem Harris after the Bluebirds' 2-1 win over Brighton, but admits he never expected to pick him as a Premier League starter.
Harris impressed on his first start in the top flight and set up Cardiff's opening goal with a fine run and cross.
Warnock says the midfielder, 25, a 2012 signing from Wycombe Wanderers, has forced his way into his plans.
"I didn't think I'd ever play him if I'm honest," Warnock admitted.
"At the start of the season I didn't, but he's just changed my mind. He deserves it.
"He's been the best player in training for the last six weeks, he's been an absolute breath of fresh air for me as a manager.
"I've had no option but to bring him into the squad.
"I put him on and he scored the other week (in Cardiff's 4-2 win over Fulham) and he's earned his place and by the looks of it he wants to keep it.
"Because I thought every time he got it he was dangerous. He was as good as anybody on the pitch today."
Harris was pleased to reward his manager's faith, as Warnock marked 100 games in charge of the Bluebirds.
"It was an opportunity I have been waiting for, thankfully it came today and I am even happier that we have topped it off with a win," Harris said.
"I am delighted really. I thought we deserved the three points and it has been a long time coming.
"It must be very nice for the manager to celebrate his 100th game with a win."
Warnock, confirmed that defender Sean Morrison suffered a broken nose in the win over Brighton.
"He broke his nose. He had a few rough challenges today. But in the end I thought he was a little bit dizzy so we didn't want to risk anything," he said.