Newcastle's Mohamed Diame was '˜sleeping' a year ago '“ now he's woken up
The midfielder – who scored in last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace – has been voted the club’s player of the month for January.
Diame beat team-mates Jacob Murphy and Paul Dummett to the award.
The 30-year-old will be presented with the award before Sunday’s home game against Manchester United.
Diame – who retired from international football with Senegal in March to focus on his club career – struggled for form last season after joining from Hull City in the summer of 2016.
Speaking midway through the club’s Championship season, Diame said: “I need to wake up because I’ve been sleeping since I got here.
“To be honest, I’ve not played the football I have wanted to play since I’ve been here.
“The manager (Rafa Benitez) will always say he wants more from me, even if I’m playing well.
“He’s pushing me and telling me he wants more. All the good things will come if I keep working.
“I feel it was a long season last year.”
Asked what had changed after scoring a Premier League goal against Palace at Selhurst Park, Diame said: “Nothing, just the work.
“I’ve been working hard to get back to the player I want to be. That’s it, just the work.
“Of course, it’s what I want to do and what I have to do.
“If Newcastle signed me, it was to have this kind of performance, so it’s important to show I can stay at this level or give more.”
Diame’s goal against Palace was his second of the season. The result left Newcastle in 16th place and one point above the relegation zone.
Meanwhile, Antonio Valencia says Manchester United are still fighting for the Premier League title ahead of the club’s visit to St James’s Park (2.15pm kick-off).
Jose Mourinho’s second-placed side are 13 points behind leaders Manchester City.
“We need to keep fighting until the end – we need to keep going,” said right-back Valencia.
“A few years ago, we lost a title when we were eight points ahead and there were only a few games left.
“Now, we have a lot more games to play and we need to keep fighting.
“The important thing is always to get the three points – playing at home, playing well, and we will carry on with this mentality until the end of the season.
“We have showed that we have the quality and conditions to fight until the end of the season.”
Valencia has stood in as captain in the absence of Manchester United’s Geordie skipper, Michael Carrick.
“I want to represent the team, and I think I’m doing it well, but the most important thing is that my team-mates are happy with me.”