Sunderland's Jack Colback says he aims to build on last season's progress to become one of Martin O'Neill's lynchpins.
The 22-year-old made 35 Premier League appearances for the Black Cats in 2011/12, and was rewarded with a contract extension until 2014.
The midfielder is a product of Sunderland's Academy system and established himself in the senior side's engine room under Steve Bruce and stayed there after O'Neill took the reins late in 2011.
"I'm not a kid anymore, and I don't want to be tagged as a young player," says Colback. "That label can be used as an excuse if you have a bad game.
"So I need to be going into games looking to assert myself. That means trying to boss the game and control it.
"I need to kick on from last season. I had an OK season last time, but I need to move on and help Sunderland become a top 10 club."
Colback made his Sunderland debut in May 2010, but it was a day to remember for the wrong reasons with his substitute appearance ending with a sending off for a second bookable offence.
However, loan spells at Ipswich Town either side of his debut seemed to have paid off when Colback returned to Wearside and quickly began to command a regular place in the first team.
O'Neill has kept faith in the England youth international, but is now demanding more over the coming months.
"I spoke to him the manager and he told me that over the next 12 months, he expects a lot from me. I completely agree with him," adds Colback.
"I need that kind of pressure on me to start performing at an even higher level.
"I need to be pushing on now and getting more noticed in games.
"I think everyone is enjoying Martin as a manager. He is a very clever manager and says things at the right moment, that little one-liner which makes you think, 'yeah, he's right' and it helps in games."