By Tom Easterby - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Siem de Jong has expressed his relief at making his return to action at Leicester City on Monday night.
The 27-year-old entered the fray as a second-half substitute for Ayoze Perez to make his first appearance since suffering a serious eye injury two months ago, as United sought an equaliser at the King Power Stadium.
And, while a leveller wasn't forthcoming in the 20 minutes de Jong had on the pitch, the former Ajax captain - featuring for the first time since the 3-3 draw with Manchester United at St. James' Park in January - pledged to keep working hard to help turn the Magpies' fortunes around.
"Last week I was fit but I wasn't selected for the squad, so I was a bit disappointed but I needed to train for this week. I'm glad to be back on the pitch," he told nufc.co.uk.
"I had a small chance at the end, and with a little bit of luck and you score a goal which will change your luck, but I'll keep on working hard.
"The eye is fine. It's taken a while to fully heal and it was quite a nasty injury, and it needed treatment in the hospital. It was quite a shock when it happened and I was quite scared about seeing normally again, but it's all gone back to normal so that's a good thing."
United slipped to a 1-0 defeat in Rafa Benitez's first game in charge, after a stunning Shinji Okazaki overhead kick handed title-chasing Leicester all three points.
But de Jong believes there was some encouragement to be taken from the performance against Claudio Ranieri's league leaders.
And with the Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland at St. James' Park next up on Sunday, the Dutchman is optimistic that Benitez's first full week in charge could culminate in improvements being apparent by the time Sam Allardyce and the Black Cats arrive in town in five days' time.
"Of course it's disappointing. You want to win every game, and we need the points. We had a few opportunities - not big chances - and maybe in the end we could have got a draw, but Leicester are a difficult team to play against," said de Jong.
"I think we made it difficult for them as well to play, but it wasn't enough to get a point, and we need to improve that for the next game. I think there are some positive points we can carry on to the next game, and it's going to be another really important game for us, so we have to focus on that one now.
"You always want to win or at least draw a game, and you're always disappointed afterwards when you get nothing. We need to get the positives in and the negatives out, and we need to improve this week.
"We only had three days to train with the new manager, so hopefully a few more days we can improve a little more and it's an important game coming up next week."