It might only have been 12 months but Darren Carter has run the whole gamut of emotions during his short stint at West Bromwich Albion.

He arrived in a £1.5 million deal from Birmingham City last July and everything looked rosy in the Carter garden.

The England Under-21 international knew that the carrot was the opportunity to become a Premiership regular and a superlative strike against Arsenal endeared him to Albion supporters.

But football is a cruel sport and the 22-year-old experienced the other side of the coin for this first time during his fledgling career.

As Albion's star began to fade so did Carter's form as he was beset by a crisis in confidence culminating in jeers during the defeat against Sunderland.

It was a brutal experience for Carter but he refused to hide in his shell and has emerged a stronger character.

He has been a surprise package during Albion's pre-season campaign and pushed himself to the forefront of Bryan Robson's plans.

He might be on the bench for the visit of Hull City on Saturday in the Championship opener but there is no doubt he is exerting pressure on the four likely incumbents of the mid-field positions.

In fact, the only match Carter missed during the perennial summer slog was the patchy display at Kilmarnock.

A sore hamstring prevented his participation and it was, in footballing parlance, a good one to miss.

Robson's insistence that results are irrelevant in friendlies was tested to the limit during a 2-1 defeat at Rugby Park and was the catalyst for a frank exchange of views at their Ayrshire training base.

Carter said: "I think the Kilmarnock defeat might have been a good thing as the gaffer spoke to us the next day and told us a few home truths. Not one of the lads disagreed with what he said.

"I think everything he said was spot on and was exactly what we needed as it sparked us back into life.

"With the job ahead, it is going to be tough and I think we need to realise that and start getting our heads down.

"I think that that talk with the manager, along with the game at Kilmarnock, has opened a few people's eyes now.

"It is going to be tough and we are going to have to battle this year, so it was good for us to get that out of the way."

Carter, who looks leaner than last year, is undoubtedly a hungrier footballer this season.

Whether it was whipping in crosses for John Hartson or surging into the opponents' penalty area, all of his zest had returned.

After last season, he was sufficiently concerned to indulge in some serious soul-searching.

"It's a massive season for me," he said. "I have spoken to the gaffer and told him my ambitions for the season.

"I want to improve as a player and play every game if possible, as I thought I stood still a bit last year," he said.

"I didn't prove myself in the way I wanted to. This year I have set my goals and I am going to try to reach them. I am going to drive myself on and hopefully get my rewards at the end of it.

"At times last year, during games, I didn't really have the confidence and I dealt with criticism badly.

"I think I am stronger for it now. Coming through that, I think that I can take any criticism this year.

"On the pitch is where I want to do my talking, as I feel good about everything at present. That is the way I want to stay this season.

"Criticism hurts and I think it would be a very hard person who didn't let it affect them. I hadn't really experienced it before, so it was new for me.

"But I have now and I know how to deal with things differently.

"I had expectations for myself last year and I didn't reach them. I didn't feel 100 per cent and that was something I was fighting all season. However, I know what I should be doing week in and week out. I am stronger for it."

Meanwhile, it looks as though Albion are inching closer towards the signature of Queens Park Rangers defender Danny Shitthu. Reports suggest that a deal could be concluded as early as the end of this week with both parties working towards an agreement.