JAKE Buxton may be hampered by injury but the defender is determined to keep hold of his place in the Derby County side, writes Steve Nicholson.
Buxton has managed to come through the Rams' opening two league games of the season, despite a hip flexor problem.
The centre-back was rested for the Capital One Cup tie at Carlisle, where his place was taken by Zak Whitbread.
Buxton knows Whitbread will be battling hard for his position, having joined the club on a permanent basis over the summer.
He does not intend to give it up without a fight and expects to be fit to face Charlton Athletic at the Valley tonight (7.45pm).
"The Carlisle game was a chance to give Zak a well-deserved opportunity – and he did well," said Buxton.
"I know I've got to be on my toes and give everything I've got, because I know he will be fighting hard for a place in the team.
"I don't want to lose my place in the side. I'm very grateful to be here and I want to stay in the side as long as possible."
Buxton picked up two player of the year awards for his displays last term as Derby reached the Championship play-off final.
But he is taking nothing for granted as Steve McClaren's men go for promotion once more.
"There will be competition for places throughout the side for the whole season," said Buxton.
"Zak's a good lad. He's been so professional for all the time he's been here.
"He's never once spat the dummy out while I was in the side last season. He's waited for his opportunity ever week.
"He'll obviously have to bide his time until my performances dip or I get injured. But as it stands, he's done everything he can do to get that shirt.
"I'm coming off a half-decent season last season and the manager doesn't like to change it up too much. He believes in what we did last season."
Former Leicester City defender Whitbread, along with the likes of midfielder John Eustace and recent loan striker Leon Best, have been waiting in the wings for their chance to impress.
"Zak has been a phenomenal pro, as has Conor Sammon before he moved on (to Ipswich on loan).
"There are three or four lads in the same boat – John Eustace is another.
"They've been outstanding and that is what a good squad is made of. The lads know this is a good side and anyone who gets in will have deserved their place.