They say a year is a long time in football. So how long does that make 595 days?
During that period between August 2019 and April 2021, Brexit finally happened. A Star Wars series started in 1977 ended. A new US president was elected. And there’s also been a global pandemic added in for good measure.
That’s not even beginning to list off the dramatic storylines carried within Scottish football during that time. But through all the change, hardship and turbulence, there was one constant in the sometimes lonely and often cold South Stand gym at Fir Park.
Charles Dunne could not have envisaged a billboard smash and groin injury suffered in a derby match against Hamilton Academical would rule him out of almost two season’s worth of senior squads. He had a long-term injury at Oldham Athletic prior to arriving at Motherwell in 2017 but it was nothing like this.
“It’s been a while since I’ve did an interview, I’ve been injured for decades,” Dunne said as he began to speak publicly about his injury for the first time. “I’ve been injured for so long but it doesn’t feel that long. I see people saying on Twitter saying it’s 595 days but to me it doesn’t feel like it.
“Maybe it’s just how I am. There’s maybe been frustrating bits here and there with the way the injury was.
“I have been ok mentally. Initially I did my groin at Hamilton but I also crashed into the billboard that match which people might not remember. I started to feel pain in my knee.
“I had done my groin so that was focused on. I had the operation, did the rehab. I was coming back from that injury but I always had that pain in my knee. We didn’t know what it was – maybe a tendon – but we got a scan and they said it was a bruised bone.
“I went to see a specialist who said it would be fine in six to eight weeks. I was able to continue training but I was in pain. I went back, the specialist said there was nothing there and it was taking longer than expected. I then couldn’t train as it was too sore so I went back to him a third time.
“He went into my knee this time and there was something wrong with my cartilage, little things. He then drilled the bruised bone as it aids healing and since then I’ve been doing that. People might think I had knee reconstruction or something like that but it was just a bruised bone. Like one on your body, but on the bone.”
It’s been a long, long road. Even the simple things at one stage were difficult for Dunne, who moved to find new tasks. Given the length of time he had out with injury, the dreaded post-football thoughts entered the mind.
Such is his character though, Dunne was not prepared to make this a hard luck story. Instead he worked behind the scenes, joining former manager Stephen Robinson for a peek on the other side of his career last year.
“Every single day I was in pain, walking up the stairs, even when I was in bed fixing the covers,” Dunne candidly said.
“It was crazy. I began to think ‘when am I going to get better?’ I knew I’d recover. I wish we had diagnosed it straight away.
“I went to watch Hibs to keep myself busy. When you are injured in that gym all day it’s a lonely place. It’s no joke up there. Your mindset has to be different. So I did some scouting for that game, it was quite fun to be fair. I thought I was Pep Guardiola(!).
“I don’t think about what comes after too much. It’s too hard – but I should do. I like coaching with kids and speaking to people about mindset. I think I would be quite good at that when I’m finished.”
Dunne’s been through hell and back but now he is ready to put the Guardiola handbook to one side and make his presence known on the park.
It’s not going to be a quick process back to 90 minutes of action but the defender knows the end of the painful road is near.
“It’s been really nice to be back involved in matchday squads and stuff,” he said. “I am still hungry for more. I want to play, I really want to play. I have to build up of course. I’ve just been focusing on getting fit. I am looking forward, always.
“It is what it is, the longest and most frustrating injury I have ever had. It’s all part of the journey and this will make me stronger.
“I am just happy to be back training with the boys, I am like a big kid again. We just need to try and finish the season on a high and try and stay positive. There’s nothing else we can do. I need to try and impress the manager.
“I have been out for a while but I feel just how I used to feel. It will take a while for me to get back to match fitness but there’s nothing I can do about that.
“People who know me, they know my energy, I bring positive vibes. Ultimately, I want to show myself on the pitch.”