Luke O'Nien opens up on injury setback as Sunderland midfielder prepares to step up recovery

Sunderland midfielder Luke O’Nien has opened up on the mental and physical struggles he’s faced following his injury setback.

The 27-year-old has been sidelined since November after undergoing shoulder surgery but has returned to non-contact training.

Still, the past few months have been challenging for O’Nien, who took to social media to share his feelings.

In a lengthy post, O’Nien wrote on Instagram: “I see myself as quite a strong person so thought I’d be ok dealing with a long term injury.

Luke O'Nien playing for Sunderland.

“I didn’t think that being sidelined would affect me.

“However, I was wrong and being completely honest I’ve struggled.

“I always thought if I got injured it would be quite straight forward. Do the necessary rehab and get stronger until I was fit to play again.

“Over the past few months I’ve discovered it’s not that simple and I’ve learnt a few tough lessons.

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He added: "Being injured and unable to play caused a massive unbalance in my life:

“My usual daily routine went out the window, I had more time on my hands and didn’t know how to fill it.

"Uncertainty set in - When will I get back? How long will it take? Will I be the same player? Will I play again?

"I felt lonely. I lost the daily connection I had with my teammates as I rehabbed in isolation.

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"I started to question my identity. I’m a footballer. Who am I if I can’t play football?

“I got frustrated waiting for stitches and wounds to heal. Being unable to exercise resulted in my muscle mass dropping significantly so I felt as if my body was getting weaker.

“I felt like I wasn’t contributing to my team. All I could do was watch them play from the sidelines week in week out.”

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Sunderland head coach Alex Neil was asked about O’Nien’s post ahead of this weekend’s trip to Wigan, to which he replied: "My take on how he’s feeling he’s making progress, he’s in non-contract training just now and I think that will become contact pretty quickly.

“As far as being able to express it on social media, I’m old school and have never been on social media.

“That is fine for the modern generation, that’s how they’ve grown up and that’s what they know, but for me it’s not really something I turn my attention to.”

When asked about being aware of players’ feelings, Neil added: “I think you have to have an awareness of it.

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“I think you have to make sure you grasp the sentiment of what’s out there and what’s circulating.

“Equally I think there are certain things you need to pay attention to but can also let go with a pinch of salt if you like.

“I speak to players on a regular basis and I think that face-to-face contact gives me much more insight into how they are feeling than reading a post if you like.

“I can physically see how they are and hopefully face-to-face they can open up and I can see where they are.”

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