Mohamed Diame says its time for him to wake up Newcastle United – after a sleepy start to life at the club.
Diame will face former club Hull City in an EFL Cup quarter-final tie at the KCOM Stadium tonight.
The midfielder scored two goals in Newcastle’s 6-0 fourth-round win over Preston North End last month.
But Diame, signed from Hull in the summer for £4.5million, has struggled for form since arriving on Tyneside.
“I’m not pleased with my performances,” said the 29-year-old, who helped Hull win promotion to the Premier League last season.
“I’m disappointed with my start. I know last season was very long and very tough, and was my first in the Championship, so maybe I needed to refresh myself.
I‘m disappointed with my start. I know last season was very long and very tough, so maybe I needed to refresh myself. I need to wake up because I have been sleeping since I got here.
“I need to wake up because I have been sleeping since I got here.”
Asked why he had been “sleeping” on the field up to now, Diame added: “I feel it was a long season last year, so I used the international break (earlier this month) to refresh and see my family back home in Africa.
“I feel great now, and am convinced what I can give to Newcastle.
“To be honest, I have not played the football I have wanted to play since I’ve been here. The manager will always say he wants more from me, even if I am playing well.
“He is pushing me and telling me he wants more. All the good things will come if I keep working.
“Everyone who knows me, realises my game is about pushing and using my power.
“But I felt I was always running slowly. I did not recognise myself. Now, I say I am OK. I just needed to work a bit harder.
“The last game I felt at my best was the Championship play-off final.”
Diame says it was an “easy” decision to leave Hull and join Newcastle given the off-the-field problems at the KCOM Stadium.
Manager Steve Bruce left the club and successor Mike Phelan was left with a threadbare squad.
Asked if he believe Hull supporters understood his decision, Diame said: “Yes, I Think they understand my decision to leave.
“When you see the size of the squad in pre-season and the manager leaving, it is not like I left Hull for a bad club.
“Newcastle called me. Rafa (Benitez) called me and it was an easy decision to make.”
Diame, however, hadn’t envisaged leaving after scoring the goal in the play-off final at Wembley that took the club back into the top flight.
“I was looking forward to getting back to the Premier League,” said the Senegal international.
“When you are down in the Championship, the only target you have is to get back into the Premier League.
“The pre-season was not great at Hull. The manager left. And there was only a small squad. But I thought I would still be there.”
United manager Rafa Benitez has alternated between Diame and Ayoze Perez at No 10 this season.
Diame said: “Like every player, I want to play every game. Sometimes it is OK to go on the bench and watch and refresh, have some rest and get your body right. But now, I will use this game to push and to come back to my best.”
Asked about the return of Diame and Isaac Hayden – who spent last season on loan at Hull – to the KCOM Stadium, Benitez said: “It’s a big night for everyone, but obviously Hayden and Diame will come back and it is an opportunity for them to do well and enjoy, hopefully.”