Fit-again Siem de Jong feels like a “new signing” for Newcastle United as he looks to put the “toughest year” of his career firmly behind him.
The injury-hit Dutchman has been struck down with several injuries since his £6million move from Ajax last season.
But the 26-year-old – who started his first game in a year in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup win over Northampton – is determined to put his injury hell behind him and cement a place in Steve McClaren’s starting 11.
A succession of injuries, including a collapsed lung, thigh and most recently a shin complaint, has seen de Jong endure a frustrating start to life on Tyneside.
And he admits it has been the hardest 12-months of his career, both physically and mentally.
“I feel like a new signing a little bit,” he admitted.
“Maybe not in the group – that’s why I stayed here last year when I was injured because I wanted to get to know the team and the club.
“Most of the year when I was injured I was here, but of course on the pitch I have not played at St James’s Park a lot yet so I hope to get some more games.”
The Dutch international, who skippered Ajax to Eredivisie titles and Champions League qualification, completed 90 minutes and scored in the 4-1 win over Northampton.
“It has been a while since I have played 90 minutes so it was good for me,” said de Jong.
“I need the games.
“I want to get in as many games as possible to try and get my rhythm back again, and Northampton was a good start.”
De Jong believes there is a different, more positive, atmosphere at Newcastle this season.
He said: “It is a new start for everybody, so everybody will be positive.
“In the last [league] game against Manchester United it was a boost for the team even though we didn’t win.
“It was a good result.
“Against Northampton everyone was happy that we finished off the game quite easily so we go into Arsenal with quite a good feeling.”