Friday 26 December 2014

'You need to be angry and that's what I will be when I come back'

Published 27/11/2012 | 05:00

Stephen Hunt clashes with four Arsenal players during the Wolves game at the Emirates last season.

CHOKING back 36 pills a day shows the lengths Stephen Hunt is going to in his bid to return from injury a better player.

Just over six weeks have passed since the 31-year-old underwent surgery to fix a troublesome hip injury, and he estimates that it is more than a year since he felt fully fit.

In that time Hunt has seen some major disappointments, including the relegation of Wolves from the Premier League and his failure to see any action at the European Championships.

New Wolves boss Stale Solbakken has made it clear that the Waterford man can leave Molineux too, but Hunt feels he has a point to prove and he hopes the pills – which are largely to help strip away body fat – a new diet and an intense gym regime can help prove the Norwegian wrong.

"He's seen me playing and he doubted me but he didn't see the best of me so I can see where he's coming from too," said Hunt, whose deal expires at the end of the season.

"He's actually been a real nice person to deal with in terms of man-management.

"I know results haven't gone the way we've wanted but, strange to say, I have an affection for him and the way he goes about his job.

"I'm at a level now where I'm barely having orange juice because I know it's bad for me. I've gone to the extreme. I think Duffer (Damien Duff) did that at some stage.

"I've just thought about everything, gone crazy on diets and I kind of reached that stage now where I've turned into a bit of a gym freak.

"There's no carbs, no potatoes, I haven't had a slice of bread in I don't know how long. I have one cheat day a week when I can eat whatever I want and that's about it.

"I'm going to be like a little ball of steel hopefully and really dynamic ... that's what I want to be."

Hunt won't see action until mid-January at the earliest, meaning that a move during the transfer window seems unlikely, but he insists he can force his way back into a struggling Wolves side.

But to do that, he believes he needs to rediscover the edge to his game that made him so unpopular with opposition fans.

"I was in good shape but I just want to know myself that I've done everything I can to get to the stage where I'm ready to go. You need to be angry on the pitch and that's what I intend to be when I come back because if you don't then you lose something."

"I need to be that player otherwise I'm bang average," he revealed, at the announcement of Blue Square Bet's sponsorship of the John Durkan Memorial Chase Day at Punchestown Racecourse on Sunday, December 9.

"I'm better off being a nasty bugger on the pitch; I'm better off being lairy. If you look at Craig Bellamy, you'd hate him, you'd think he's a right t**t like.

"But he's dedicated when he's off the field, he gets his body in good shape to go and play and he is at his best when he's lairy because it gets him going, and maybe I had gone a bit too nice.

"Maybe I should have been more lairy – and it doesn't mean I'm an idiot, it means that's the way I play and that's the way I should play from now on."

After the disappointment of not seeing action at the Euros, he distracted himself with a few training sessions with Wexford senior hurling club St Martin's.

As a former underage hurler with Waterford, he expressed a desire to return to the game before he finishes up playing.

"Maybe I would play hurling again someday. If I stayed fit and had no aches and pains, I could play hurling for two or three years, 34 to 36," he said.

"I gave a bit of a roasting to a few of the 'keepers and they are a senior hurling team. I haven't lost it and I really enjoyed it.

"Maybe I'd play in Waterford, I don't think I could play in Wexford without getting lynched! My club in Waterford is Clonea Power but my wife is from Wexford so I don't know who I would play for. I'm open to bribes I suppose."

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has been in touch since the summer to underline that Hunt remains part of his plans.

Duff's retirement opens a door but the emergence of the likes of Robbie Brady offers a different challenge to Hunt.

Ireland resume action in 2013 with a friendly at home to Poland in early February, but Hunt hopes to resume his international career for the World Cup qualifier against Sweden in Stockholm on March 22.

"I believe in what I can do. So from that point of view I'm disappointed, gutted and heart-wrenched over the Euros. I put up all my eggs in the one basket for the Euros," he said.

"I obviously wanted Wolves to do well, but everyone's main objective was to be fit for the Euros. I did everything I could to get 100pc fit.

"I hadn't played the games I wanted to play to get fit for the Euros. That's why the Euros was such a disappointment for me.

"Maybe Trapattoni had seen that I wasn't 100pc fit, though I still think I should have played certain parts of it, for sure, and at least have started one of the games in terms of what I could do for the team and what I had done for the team.

"It's taken me until now to get over it, to a certain degree. I've got back into the swing of things, working in the gym and really getting my mind refocused on the future instead of looking back."

Irish Independent

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