There are few positions that could be regarded as 'nailed down' heading into this season, but Norwich City's right-back spot felt somewhat secure. 

Another summer of speculation ended with Max Aarons remaining in Norfolk and, given the level of performance he had reached in the Championship previously, there wasn't a debate around whether he should start the season as City's first choice. 

With Bali Mumba permitted to join League One side Plymouth on a season-long loan, that left just Sam Byram as cover. 

Since Aarons' emergence in 2018, he has featured whenever fit and available. 

In recent times, that hasn't been the case - Byram has been preferred in matches for the first time since Aarons graduated from the academy set-up. 

The Canaries' 3-1 victory over Stoke on October 29 was the first time they had won a game without Aarons operating at right-back in over four years. Byram was Smith's preferred option for that fixture. 

That is a testament to Aarons' consistency and availability over recent seasons - since returning to fitness, Byram has sought to disrupt the hegemony and offered real competition for the 22-year-old. 

Aarons' performances have been a contributing factor, but Byram's work in training and efforts in Championship matches helped forge that opportunity. 

There is an argument given how Smith has curbed the attacking freedoms of the full-backs, that Byram is a better fit for City's systems outside of the 4-3-1-2. 

He doesn't provide Norwich with the same attacking thrust and he often fails to make ground passes up the line, but his metrics around the core defensive elements - blocking, tackling and aerial duels - are all very strong. 

Those fundamentals are why he is seen as such a pivotal player by Smith, coupled with his experience and the variety of roles that he can play in. 

A number of his appearances this season have arrived at left-back during City's spate of defensive injuries in that particular area 

Byram's inclusion in that position, coupled with a right-footed player in more advanced areas, left Norwich unbalanced and struggling to progress the ball on that side of the pitch. There was a lop-sided nature to their play. 

Yet, defensively, Byram offered a greater level of defensive security as opposed to other options in that area - but with Dimi Giannoulis and Sam McCallum returning, he will now solely be competing with Aarons for the right-back slot.

Byram was one of the players who Smith was relishing working with when he was appointed as City boss last November, although there was a degree of uncertainty given a long injury lay-off that kept him out of action for nearly two years. 

He went as far as labelling him as a potential future captain for the Canaries providing he could maintain his fitness and even trusted him to play as a central defensive option in the final weeks of City's Premier League demise. 

Injury concerns continue to punctuate his campaign and prevent him from achieving a real consistency. At points during this season, Smith has joked that Byram has spent more time in the cyrochamber rather than on the training pitch. 

Despite the major setback and disruption he endured, Byram's adaptation back to frontline football was smooth albeit there have been a couple of injuries since then. 

Frustratingly for the former Leeds and West Ham man, they seem to occur just as he finds his stride and a degree of rhythm. In the most recent example, his hamstring injury pushed him out of the team after a lot of work to leapfrog Aarons. 

A measure of how well Aarons performs in the upcoming weeks will reflect on Byram - if the competition is strong, his levels should rise. If they don't, then in the 29-year-old provides an alternative option. 

It is another position that displays the quality that Norwich have in their squad. 

Byram is one of the eight City players who are out of contract come the end of May - Smith would like to extend his stay at Carrow Road but it may come down to how well he retains his fitness between now and May. 

The Pink Un: Sam Byram has pushed Max Aarons out of the starting right-back spot on occasion this season. Sam Byram has pushed Max Aarons out of the starting right-back spot on occasion this season. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Limited)

His versatility, mentality and quality have impressed the City boss - now he is hoping for a period of both consistency and availability.

It may also hinge on how Mumba's progress at Plymouth is viewed and whether he is ready to step into the first-team, something that may well depend on which league Norwich find themselves in next season. 

If this season was to end in promotion back to the Premier League, Byram would be seen as a useful squad option who can offer quality within his own right but also provide coverage in numerous defensive areas. 

But there is a feeling that he will have to show more - in the next six months, he is fighting for his Norwich future.