Jamaal Lascelles has delivered a candid assessment of his own season for Newcastle United – after leading the club to Premier League safety.
However, the defender, appointed captain three years ago by Rafa Benitez, went on to sign a new deal at St James’s Park.
Lascelles – and Newcastle – struggled for form in the first half of the campaign.
The club didn't win any of its first 10 league games, but the team recovered in the second half of the season after Benitez switched to a back five, and the club secured its top-flight status last month with three games left to play.
Lascelles and his team-mates end their campaign with a fixture against relegated Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday.
“Maybe the first half of the season, on a personal level, it wasn’t my best,” said Lascelles.
“Some games I did well, some games not as well, so maybe I should have been more consistent.
“But I think I’ve found, in the last few months, performances starting to pick up.
“I’m the harshest critic of myself. In comparison to last year, I thought I did really well last year.
“But it’s not really about me. Again, we’ve gone another season, had a lot of people doubting us, and we’re going to do another year in the Premier League.”
Lascelles, linked with Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Everton last summer, “stayed calm” during the club’s rut.
The 25-year-old signed a new six-year-deal in November, and things steadily improved for him – and the team.
Lascelles told the matchday programme: “It wasn’t like every single game I was having a beast, but it was just ... I think, because results weren’t going our way as well, it might look even worse.
“I think when the results are going your way, it makes everyone look like a better player.
“But you just stay calm, do the right things, live your life outside football the right way and try not to have any distractions and just work as hard as you can.
“With this manager, and around these players and staff, you can’t do too much wrong if you’re doing things right for yourself as well.”
Lascelles succeeded Fabricio Coloccini as skipper in the summer of 2016 following the club’s relegation to the Championship.
And the Derby-born player, signed from Nottingham Forest in the summer of 2014 along with goalkeeper Karl Darlow, says it’s “not easy” to lead the club given the pressures and responsibilities that come with playing and wearing the captain’s armband.
“I just want to be the best I can,” said the former England Under-21 international.
“I just want to try and better myself.
“When things don’t go the right way, it’s how you bounce back and react to it.
“Playing for Newcastle, and being captain at Newcastle, is not an easy thing to do.
“I know that the fans are really supportive, and a lot of people are supportive round me, but I don’t want to let other people down.
“Ultimately, how we play can affect other people as well.”
Lascelles – who hopes to earn a senior England call-up – has started all but six of Newcastle’s 37 league games this season.
The centre-half has made 135 career appearances – and scored eight goals in all competitions – for United.