PETER Hartley admits he took “one step backwards” last season – but the skipper is determined to make amends with two leaps forward this year.
Having been crowned Player of the Season at the end of the 2011/12 campaign, the centre-back set about taking his game to the next level.
But Hartley says that improvement failed to materialise in the manner he had hoped for, the season ultimately ending in relegation to the bottom tier.
“I think I took a step backwards in terms of consistency last season but I will take two steps forward next year,” the 25-year-old told SportMail.
“It’s the nature of the beast in football - I won those awards last year but then probably didn’t kick on from that.
“But the type of person I am I just want to keep on improving.
“I’m so grateful for this opportunity as a professional footballer, I want to make the best of myself every single day in training.
“Consistency is the key, in training and in matches.
“Every day you wake up you have to think ‘I’m going to get the best out of today that I physically can’.”
Hartley, though, is set to adapt his pre-season routine this time around.
The former Sunderland trainee was adamant that he had to bulk up 12 months ago.
But Hartley believes that extra strength work proved to the cost of other aspects of his game.
“I did too much last summer and had it in my head that I needed to get stronger,” he confessed.
“I think I overdid it and I wasn’t as sharp as I normally am.
“I will try to reduce that and go back to the programme I did the season before.
“It’s always an edge to be quicker than strikers, I need to get that yard of sharpness back.
“But before all of that it’s so important to have a complete break, a mental rest, don’t even watch any football if you can help it.
“That way you come back hungry and raring to go.”