Sean Longstaff is relishing the challenge of trying to rediscover the form that lit up his introduction into first-team life at Newcastle United.
It is just over 14 months since Rafa Benitez handed the midfielder his first senior Magpies appearance as a substitute in a 4-0 defeat at Liverpool.
A first start followed in an FA Cup third-round tie against Blackburn Rovers two weeks later and Longstaff netted his first goal for the club in a replay win against the Championship outfit.
He came to national attention when Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola praised the Magpies midfielder for his sterling performance in a 2-1 win against the reigning Premier League champions in late January.
But agony and frustration were to follow when his season was ended in early March with a serious knee injury sustained in a 2-0 defeat at West Ham United.
Longstaff’s rehabilitation was completed to a backdrop of speculation linking him with a move to Manchester United over the summer – but he remained at St James' Park and battled his way back into contention under new manager Steve Bruce.
However, while Longstaff has struggled to rediscover his best form in a black-and-white shirt, the newly-crowned North East Football Writers Association Young Player of the Year is determined to silence the doubters by re-establishing himself as a key figure with his boyhood club.
“To be honest, since I was a young lad growing up, it’s been the same," he told ChronicleLive.
“There have been people who have questioned whether I’m good enough right the way coming through.
“It’s about proving people wrong. I’ve got confidence in myself to come through whatever spell it is.
“It’s all a challenge, it’s all a part of learning, it’s all a part of playing football at the highest level. I relish that challenge, really.
He continued: “I think as much as it helps being from Newcastle, it can be a bit of a burden at times, because anything that does happen, you’re the first one to get pointed at.
“It’s a great pressure to have. It’s a pressure I’ve that always I’ve wanted since I was a young lad.
“It’s something I’m dealing with at the minute. I’m still loving every second of it.”
Longstaff revealed that he had relied on advice from one of his team-mates that knows what it’s like to make their way from United’s academy through to experiencing the high-pressure environment in the Premier League.
“I’ve spoken to Dummy (Paul Dummett) about it, because there’s no one better to speak about it.
“I remember going to watch Dummy, and we could win 10-0 and Dummy would still do something wrong (in some people’s eyes).
“He’s the perfect person to look at and ask for advice.
“For him to be one of my best mates, he’s perfect to have there.”
Saturday’s home game against Burnley will conjure up some happy memories for Longstaff.
The midfielder netted his first Premier League goal against the Clarets with a sweetly struck effort at the Leazes End in a 2-0 win last season.
But with just one win in their last nine league games, United head into the game looking to a poor run of form that has them nervously looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone.
But Longstaff is determined to put an end to the questions currently being asked of his team-mates with a home win against Sean Dyche’s in-form side.
“No one likes losing games, the team more than anyone," added. "It hurts when you don’t win for a while.
“People start asking questions, and that can be tough at times.
“The lads are going to come through that period.
“We’re in a strong position as of now, and if we can win on Saturday, stop the skid and build on that, we’ll be talking about how positive things are again.”
One aspect that has hindered the opening six months of Longstaff’s second season in the senior setup has been the speculation surrounding his contract talks with the club.
Longstaff has been discussing a new deal as the Magpies look to secure his services beyond the expiration of his current contract in June 2022.
Longstaff’s younger brother Matty has also been in talks to sign a new contract, with his current deal coming to an end in June this year.
United boss Steve Bruce said recently that talks were at an “impasse” over a new deal for the younger Longstaff and Sean gave his own thoughts on both sets of discussions.
He said: “I don’t know. Like I’ve said, for me and Matty, we’re waiting for the club, really.
“So, it’s up to them what they want to do.”