Christian Atsu says his year in the Championship with Newcastle United was the making of him as a player.
Atsu joined the club on loan from Chelsea last year after unsuccessful spells at Bournemouth and Everton.
And the winger has admitted that some of his friends questioned the wisdom of the move.
However, the 25-year-old, superb so far this season, felt he had to drop out of the top flight – as he wasn’t then ready to play at that level.
Atsu – who scored five goals in Newcastle’s Championship-winning season – hasn’t looked back.
And he is likely to line up against Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium tomorrow.
“I know some of them couldn’t believe I went to that level in the Championship,” said Atsu, who joined United on a permanent deal in the summer.
“But, in life, when things go bad for you, you have to adjust to it.
“I went to the Championship and tried to improve. That was my level at that moment. I had to accept it and work on it.
“I couldn’t say I was a Premier League player, as I couldn’t play in the Premier League. I had to accept it and play in the Championship.
I couldn’t say I was a Premier League player, as I couldn’t play in the Premier League. I had to accept it and play in the Championship.Christian Atsu
“I went to that level and tried to improve myself so I could play in the Premier League.
“By God’s grace, I’m here in the Premier League with Newcastle.”
Asked if the club’s promotion season was the making of him, Atsu added: “Yes, exactly.
“The Championship’s very hard. You run more in the Championship than the Premier League. It doesn’t stop.
“I believe if you work hard in the Championship you will be fit for the Premier League. You need to work hard to be a quality player.”
Atsu believes that he’s getting better week by week under the guidance of manager Rafa Benitez.
“I’m very happy now that I keep on playing,” said the Ghana international.
“I’m trying to do well for the team.
“For me, I believe the more you play the more you improve. I’m trying to improve myself and the team.”
Atsu scored his first Premier League goal in last weekend’s 2-1 win over Stoke City.
The win took Newcastle up to fourth place in the division.
“We’re very happy that we’ve won three games in a row after two defeats,” said Atsu.
“We showed that we have a very mentality to overcome things. We all want to improve. We just need to keep working hard.
“We have a very ambitious team with a strong mentality to keep fighting for each other.
“We have a very good team spirit.
“We keep fighting and supporting each other until the end. We’re just trying to improve.”
Atsu scored Newcastle’s first goal against Stoke.
He was there at the far post to meet Matt Ritchie’s right-wing cross.
Xherdan Shaqiri levelled after the break, and captain Jamaal Lascelles scored a second-half winner for United.
“I’ve been looking for my first Premier League goal, so it was a great moment for me,” said Atsu.