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Stephen Hunt: 'I have a busy head, I never stop thinking'


'Every game could be it for me, every game is my chance to make an impression'.  Photo credit: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

'Every game could be it for me, every game is my chance to make an impression'. Photo credit: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Getty Images

'Every game could be it for me, every game is my chance to make an impression'. Photo credit: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Today I was supposed to be in Wexford General Hospital doing all the things fathers do when their wife is about to give birth. Of course, I didn't know what it was that fathers did when their wife went into labour before our first daughter, Luella, was born four years ago.

Then, I went to the hospital without a care in the world. I didn't think it would be easy. I thought it would be straightforward, but watching Joanne, my wife, in labour with Luella changed everything. I wasn't anxious that time, but sometimes a bit of knowledge can be a curse and I'm more apprehensive this time. I was there for Luella's birth and I will be there for my new baby's birth, but it probably won't be today and that's thanks to Sky Sports.

Joanne had decided to be induced today, but a couple of weeks ago, Sky announced that our game against Wigan, which was meant to be played yesterday, was being moved to the Monday night.

My family come first, Joanne knows that, but when you're 34 and trying to come back from injury and maybe get a place on the bench, it's good to be available. It might surprise people, but I know what not to say and when I told Joanne that the game had been moved, I didn't say anything. Joanne understood and now she will be induced on Tuesday, so I can be available for tomorrow night's game, live on Sky Sports.

None of this will make any difference to Mick McCarthy's decision, so I might not be picked at all, but I will be ready and available for Ipswich Town and I will be available in Wexford General Hospital the next day.

On Friday, Joanne and Luella drove back to Ireland so the baby can be born at home. Joanne has spent a lot of time in Ireland this year getting our gastropub in Rosslare ready and last week, Luella started school in Birmingham. The thing is, we don't have a house in Birmingham yet, so the two of them were in a hotel, which was a lovely hotel, but it's still stressful for a woman who is nearly nine months pregnant. Meanwhile, I'm trying to concentrate on getting fit, wondering if my wife and daughter and expected child are OK, so sometimes I'm not concentrating on getting fit, I'm concentrating on my family being OK.

Obviously I'm not complaining, we have a great life thanks to football, but it doesn't mean there aren't stresses and anxieties that distract you, even when the stress and anxiety of returning to fitness as a footballer is also getting on top of you.

I want to be available for this game, but the team are on a good run and the extra two days means the players will get more rest, so the gaffer might not change it.

I was late getting to the Premier League and when I got there, I wanted to make it last as long as possible. I was always desperate to make the most of every minute, but when you're younger, you always think there'll be another game. I haven't played a first-team match this season. I'm no longer so naive that I think there'll always be another game.

Every game could be it for me, every game is my chance to make an impression and in that sense, the beginning of your career is like the end of it, full of desperation and a debilitating anxiety about making an impression.

The beginning and end can take place off the beaten track. Last Sunday, I came in to training and found the dressing room buzzing. We'd won on Saturday and I was thinking I needed to impress because there was a chance I might make the bench for Tuesday's game against Brighton.

That was my dream, but I knew the reality too, and I knew the gaffer knew it as well. Before I could make the bench, I'd need time to improve my fitness. I'd had a few setbacks, so that was the sensible option, but in my head I was 17 again and mad to impress.

The truth was elsewhere in my head. I have a busy head, I never stop thinking about things. Sometimes it's a blessing, but anyone who thinks too much will tell you that it's also a torment. I had let myself think there was a chance for Tuesday and then the manager called me over.

"There's a reserve game tomorrow, Hunty. You need minutes. Head down to Charlton."

I felt down, even though I knew it was coming and then there were other feelings, other voices making themselves known to the committee in my head. What am I doing playing in a reserve game on a Monday afternoon at 34? Maybe it's over, why am I wasting my time? And the loudest voice of all. What if I get injured again?

I dealt with the voices on Monday afternoon, I played in the game as if it was a home match for Ireland.

To imagine that a lunchtime kick-off on a Monday afternoon in a training ground off a suburban estate in south-east London is a game of some significance takes some suspension of belief, especially when you've played in some big games. But I did it and from that, other things flowed. I was pleased that I could motivate myself for the game and that gave me confidence to play. I think when I lose that buzz, it will be time to pack it in. The manager was watching, too, so I knew I couldn't coast.

I played OK, set up a goal and managed to wind a few people up, which is what I do when I'm tired. It gets me going again, gives me a shot of adrenaline and the manager knows me well enough that he knows I won't get sent off, it's just an energy boost.

So today I'll train instead of being in Wexford General Hospital and what I see as my sacrifices won't bring me any closer to a place in the squad and it shouldn't be any other way. I have played more minutes now, so maybe there's a chance of being on the bench tomorrow.

On Tuesday I'll be in Wexford General Hospital, all being well, and while I might only have a place on the sideline again, it will mean more to me than any game of football.

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