‘I’ve been to some dark places but now I feel like a footballer again’: Hyam opens up on injury nightmare
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It’s been a long road back for Ipswich Town midfielder Luke Hyam.
Between walking off the pitch at Derby on the final day of the 2015/16 season and his eight-minute cameo at Fulham on Tuesday night, 605 days passed without the 26-year-old kicking a ball in anger.
A nerve problem in his knee followed by damaged ankle ligaments, suffered blocking a shot in training, ruled him out for the entirety of last season before summer optimism over a return was ended by another round of knee surgery in September.
But now he’s back and he’s looking forward to making up for lost time after putting the dark days of injury behind him.
“It was a bit surreal, being back, and it was all a bit weird, preparing for a game and doing the warm-up, so to get on was a real bonus,” he said.
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“I felt like an 18-year-old kid again, making a second debut, just because I had been out for such a long time.
“We have quite a few injuries at the moment so the gaffer threw me on the bench but I do need games, some more Under 23 games, to get that match sharpness.
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“I feel like a footballer again. Nobody will ever really understand until you go through these situations so to say it has been hard is an understatement. It’s been a struggle.
“I’m just lucky I have such good friends, family, my girlfriend and everyone at the club who has been so supportive towards me. I’ve been to some dark places but I just want to concentrate on the future, enjoy myself again and be part of the lads again. The hardest thing is coming in, seeing the lads going outside and come back in laughing and joking because you don’t feel part of the banter.
“You never realise how much you miss it and you appreciate it so much more, so hopefully going through this will make me a much stronger person going forward.”
The former Northgate pupil also insisted the support he has been given from the club’s fans was vital during his extended spell on the sidelines.
“When you’re not involved you do try and take yourself away from football but it’s really nice just going shopping and seeing Ipswich fans,” Hyam said.
“It’s nice to have them come up to you and say ‘hope you get back soon’ and things like that.
“Those words mean a lot and it pushes you on to get back out there and start playing games.”
Hyam could again be involved when Sheffield United visit in the FA Cup on Saturday - despite admitting he is still some way short of match fitness - with the midfielder insisting his committed playing-style will not change despite his lay-off.
“I’m fit, I’m not match fit but I’m available for selection and if I play I play. If I don’t, I don’t,” Hyam said.
“I do need to get a few games under me just to get that match sharpness but I’m happy at the moment and if it’s Saturday I am ready.
“Before the game (at Fulham) you are anxious and nervous because you haven’t done the preparation for such a long time, but when you get out there everything just goes away.
“I am a full-blooded player, that’s the way I am, but in training if I feel I’m going to get a whack I might stay away from it at the moment but in matches I will still go full-blooded.”
He did admit, though, that his time out has taught him a few lessons about his body.
“The older you get and after going through injuries, you get that bit more experienced and you know your body,” he said.
“You do things like yoga and stretching and sometimes just laying off the gym work a little because you know when your body needs to recover.
“It’s just about being that bit more diligent because when you are younger you feel like you are invincible. I didn’t pick any injuries up and I thought that was the norm, but when you go through some tough times like this you realise your body is telling you something so you need to be careful.”