Newcastle star Mo Diame: "I need to wake up and show the Toon Army my best."
Newcastle’s Senegal international admits he’s felt ‘asleep’ since finding an escape route from a summer of unrest at the KCOM Stadium to seal a £3m move to Tyneside.
The 29-year-old has struggled to hold down a regular place under Rafa Benitez, finding the net just twice in 15 appearances.
He insists fans are yet to see him anywhere near his best as he prepares to return to the starting line-up for tonight’s EFL Cup quarter-final tie – and to Humberside for the first time since his goal clinched promotion back to the Premier League in the Championship play-off final in May.
“To be honest, I’ve not played the football I have wanted to play since I’ve been at Newcastle,” the forward admitted. “I’m not pleased with the way I’ve performed so far, I’m disappointed with my start here. I need to wake up, because it feels like I’ve been sleeping since I arrived.
“I’ve only had one good game, and I know it’s not my best football I’m playing at the moment. The last time when I felt at my best was the Championship play-off final for Hull.
“Everyone who knows me knows my game is about putting myself about and using my power. Here, I feel as though I’m just running slowly all the time. I don’t recognise myself and it’s something I’m working hard to rectify.
“I think people understood my decision to leave Hull. When you see the squad and the manager leaving, then Rafa Benitez calls, you have to accept it is my decision.
“I had some good times there and it was massive for the fans to get back into the Premier League like we did at the first attempt.”
Harry Maguire will pay his thanks to Diame before hoping to make it a miserable return for Hull’s play-off final man-of-the-match, who quickly went from hero to zero with the Tigers’ faithful after Newcastle triggered a release clause in his contract weeks after his stunning Wembley winner.
Maguire reckons players and fans will always be thankful for Diame’s strike to down the Owls, and after being handed the task of trying to shackle his former team-mate, he said: “We all know Mo’s a threat, and we’ve seen what he can do during his time here.
“He can seem like he’s cruising through a game, and then all of a sudden he can create that bit of magic like he did in the play-off final.
“We’re all grateful for him for what he did then, and we know we’ve got to be fully switched on because if you give him time and space, then he will hurt you.”
Mike Phelan would love still to be able to call on Diame’s physical presence in the two-pronged task of sealing top-flight survival and making it to Wembley.
“He should get a good reception because despite having his ups and downs with injury, he put some service in here,” said Phelan.
“You look at the size of the guy and his physique, and that always helps. Footballers now are physically capable, strong and powerful, and Mo has all those attributes. You try to keep your best players, but we couldn’t in his case, and it’s history now.”