Christian Atsu’s lifted the lid on a three-year injury nightmare.
The Newcastle United winger had knee surgery late last season so he could be fully fit for the new campaign.
Atsu, signed on a permanent deal from Chelsea a year ago, believes that the niggling problem has hampered him at the club.
And the 26-year-old’s desperate to finally show what he can do after training and playing pain-free this pre-season.
“I had the injury for three years,” said Atsu, speaking ahead of tonight’s game against Braga.
“I wanted it to settle down before taking any decision.
“When I was at Chelsea I was told I didn’t have to have the surgery and that I had to do strength work every day.
“I was doing the strength work each and every day before training. The injury was still there.
“When I came to Newcastle I saw a specialist. He solved the problem for me. I’m very happy to be back.”
The injury hampered Atsu’s shooting and also slowed down a player known for his pace.
I was average, to be honest. I wasn’t happy with myself. I can’t blame myself solely, because I was carrying injuries for a long time. That’s why I’m happy. Finally, I can play without injury.Christian Atsu
“Before, because I had pain on my left knee, I was using my right knee more, which caused a lot of injuries when the muscles are tired,” he said.
“I lost my pace also. There was less power on the left. I lost my shooting also. I had to manage.”
Atsu – who spent the 2016-17 season on loan at Newcastle – played through the pain barrier last term.
The Ghana international waited until the club’s Premier League status was all but secure before deciding to have an operation.
“I had to play with the injury, because it was our first season in the Premier League and I had not been in the Premier League for a long time,” said Atsu.
“I made a decision to be strong and to try to play and have some games in the Premier League.
“It was just to stay in the league and then see what we could do.
“After the game we played against Leicester when we won, I believed we would stay in the league.
“I spoke with the doctor and said if anything needs to be done, this is the time so that I would be back for pre-season.
“After the game we decided. I went to see three doctors. After we made the final decision.”
Atsu made 19 Premier League starts last season, but he felt he was “average”.
“I was average, to be honest,” said Atsu. “I wasn’t happy with myself.
“I can’t blame myself solely, because I was carrying injuries for a long time. That’s why I’m happy. Finally, I can play without injury.”
Atsu is confident that this coming season will be his best yet at Newcastle.
“The idea of me doing the surgery to be a better player in the Premier League,” he said.
“I’m going to be a better player.
“Everybody will see. I’m confident.
“To play with pain is not easy. I
“I’m going to work hard, and I’m going to be better than in the two seasons that I’ve been with Newcastle.”