Wednesday 7 December 2016

Stephen Hunt: I know what Daniel Sturridge is going through, but he needs to take action

Published 13/12/2015 | 16:48

'Sturridge is 26, not 32, and when I think of my years dealing with injury at Brentford, I think it’s worth trying to get something from him now, even if that requires a different kind of management from Klopp'
'Sturridge is 26, not 32, and when I think of my years dealing with injury at Brentford, I think it’s worth trying to get something from him now, even if that requires a different kind of management from Klopp'

I remember the pain, and it was real pain. When you are returning from injury, you're alone a lot of the time and when you're on your own, you have time to think. As a friend of mine says, the mind is a dangerous neighbourhood: you don't want to go in there alone.

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I don't know what Daniel Sturridge thinks, I don't know how he feels when he is alone in the treatment room, as he so often is, but he wouldn't be human if he didn't feel a range of emotions. He wouldn't be human if he didn't experience self-doubt.

They say Sturridge has to be pain-free to play, but really there is no such thing for a professional footballer. It can lead to problems among team-mates who are playing with injuries, even if every player is different. Some players are lucky too. They don't know what it's like to be out for a long time. I wasn't one of the lucky ones.

Before I signed for Reading, I missed 15 months with injury, and then went on to play four years for my new club without any real problems.

My old manager at Brentford, Martin Allen, must have thought I was acting up with him, but I wasn't. The truth is that in the strange atmosphere of a dressing room, where everybody pretends to be friends except in the rare instances where there is a genuine bond, players doubt other players as much as they believe in them. To be labelled a shirker or a training ground player is something most players want to avoid.

I didn't want it, so when I was injured there were triple sessions and I'd do some work before I went to bed in the evening. There would be cardio work and upper body work but there would be very little on the pitch, very little with the ball at your feet. Very little with the team-mates you needed and who you wanted to think needed you.

The first time I had an operation, it was for a hernia. It should have been a simple operation but I put it off. I wanted to keep going without it; I didn't want the reputation that might be attached to me by being an injured player.

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To the public, the injury bulletin is usually just a bit of housekeeping a manager provides at the beginning of a press conference. They might see it on Sky Sports and be happy if their team's star player is fit, or they may be dismayed if he isn't. It is just a news report, not a psychodrama, but it is something else within a club.

The public usually don't understand the psychological baggage that can come with injury. The whispers in the dressing room, the worry a player might have that his team-mates think he can't be trusted, often accompany an injury.

It's best that managers leave it that way. Jurgen Klopp said he was misinterpreted when he said that Sturridge must learn the difference between pain and real pain, but it was an unnecessary thing for him to say, the first misstep from a manager who has been brilliant in almost every way.

Sturridge is fighting his injury problems in public, and he has had to cope with many people viewing him as unreliable, something that was happening long before Klopp spoke.

Sturridge is 26, not 32, and when I think of my years dealing with injury at Brentford, I think it's worth trying to get something from him now, even if that requires a different kind of management from Klopp.

When he clarified his comments, Klopp said you had to treat players who had lots of injuries differently to those who have had only one. He's an intelligent man and that's what I'd expect an intelligent man to say.

Klopp needs to get him fit and he needs to get him on the pitch, however he does it. Only then will he discover if Sturridge can do what Klopp requires his centre-forwards to do, but he can get the goals every side needs.

Sturridge also needs to take action. It's no use just saying you want to be pain-free. We all want things in life but sometimes we need to ask for help in coming to terms with life as it is and not how we want it to be.

Before the European Championships in 2012, I was playing with pain. I had played with pain before. I'd played with broken ribs and I'd played on with a busted ankle. In fact, I played five games with injections to numb my foot. I would try and train the day before but would come back in after the warm-up because it was too sore.

My foot had collapsed on one side. I did all that but still I have sympathy for Sturridge.

My injury before the Euros wasn't as bad but I couldn't move properly on the pitch. The Wolves physios were the best in the country. They're now working with England at St George's Park which shows how good they are, but they couldn't get me right. I had injections in my hip, I had deep tissue massage and I even had an operation on my groin because the pain was located there, but nothing helped.

I ended up spending thousands on my body and on my mind in an attempt to get me feeling ok but nothing worked and I was driving myself mad. My wife had seen a couple on Richard and Judy. They were called Nick and Eva and they helped in every way; most importantly they allowed me to think positively.

If you've suffered with injuries, it can be the most important thing. Liverpool are trying everything with Sturridge but if they can get his head right, they'll have a world-class player again - and they don't have many of those.

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