Jamaal Lascelles says he’ll be a “different player” in the Premier League – having played through the pain barrier in the Championship.
Newcastle United’s captain had surgery late last season.
Lascelles had played with a groin problem in the second half of the campaign.
And the defender delayed an operation until the club secured promotion back to the top flight.
Lascelles went under the knife after playing in the promotion-securing win over Preston North End in late April.
The 23-year-old said: “For me, it needed to happen.
“Obviously, I waited to the end of the season, and I’m glad I did and was a part of the team that went up.
“I’m a different player now. I feel a lot sharper. I can move about better. I’m glad I got that done.
“Now it’s about maintaining and pushing to get better fitness.”
Lascelles admits he was “struggling” in the latter part of Newcastle’s Championship campaign.
“At the start we didn’t know what it was,” said the former England Under-21 international.
“It was really hard for me, as the type of player I am, it’s about being physical and fast and using athleticism.
“If you take that away, which is what happened, I was struggling towards the end of the season.
“There are no excuses now. I’m fit and strong. I’m ready to get started.”
Lascelles – who experienced the pain of relegation the season before last – feels United manager Rafa Benitez has the core of a competitive Premier League side.
“It’s going to be completely different (to 2015-16),” said the Derby-born player.
“We’re focused and we’ve all got a goal. We’re a really tight group and we’re all talented.
“Hopefully, the manager can bring in a couple more players to strengthen the team.
“I’d be happy going into the Premier League with this team. Everyone’s disciplined and works hard and play for the badge. That’s what you need.”
Benitez signed Florian Lejeune from Eibar earlier this month.
Lejeune will compete with Lascelles, Ciaran Clark and Chancel Mbemba for a place in the heart of Benitez’s back four.
And Lascelles has been impressed with the 26-year-old so far this pre-season.
“He looks impressive,” he said. “He’s a big boy. He’s pretty athletic and good on the ball.
“When he gets used to English football and the tempo, I think he’ll be a really good player for us. I think the manager’s done well in signing him.
“We’ll see what else happens. We’ve got a good team anyway.”
Benitez and his players return to Tyneside today from a week-long training camp in Ireland.
Newcastle play Preston in a friendly at Deepdale tomorrow.