In a brutally honest interview, Adam Johnson has revealed he believes it is 'fair' for Sunderland fans to have questioned his hunger for the game last year.
The rejuvenated winger, who has played his way into contention for an England recall with a string of brilliant performances since the turn of the year, pulled no punches, questioning his own motivation and confidence before his current blitz in form.
He told reporters:
I think people were right to question my hunger last year. I think that's fair.
I was desperate to prove myself here, but when it didn't work out, I lost it.
It was the first time I'd gone through a spell like it. I was at a club that won all the time and I got stuck in a rut in a team that was struggling a bit.
I didn't realise it had happened, but looking back it did. There were days when I just wasn't motivated. I wasn't myself.
I was extremely frustrated. I couldn't get my head around it, but it has definitely made me a better player. I've learnt new things from difficult experiences. I'm out the other side.
It's taken me some time for me to get into a place where I'm able to play like I wanted, but I feel I'm there now.
This is the best period I've had in my career, it sort of came from nowhere but I think it's a result of everything I'd been through previously.
It's brilliant to see a footballer being so honest and open about his struggles. Actually, seeing a footballer communicate in anything other than generic cliches these days is a real treat.
I do wonder if he is being a little harsh on himself, though. I think that the move from Manchester City - where he was winning things and an impact player very much on the fringes of the side - to Sunderland must have been a very difficult one to deal with.
Suddenly he was the star player of a poor side, with the expectation and pressure thrust upon him. The fact he also had the hometown hero thing to contend with would have made things even tougher. It's no real surprise that he struggled, though like most I was expecting much more from him.
Interestingly, Gus Poyet has often talked about a 'shared responsibility', with managers needing to do more, tactically, to help players. I don't think it's a coincidence that the most studious manager he has played for here has brought the very best out of Johnson.
It has almost come full circle again now, though. Due to his performances of late, the expectation and pressure is back. Hopefully Johnson is right that he is now much better equipped to deal with it.