Luca Connell is hopeful he will soon be back to ‘where he was last season’ after a debilitating illness stalled his career.

The midfielder was a star performer as Barnsley made it to the League One play-off final last season.

But the 22-year-old was stricken in pre-season by what is now believed to have been post-viral fatigue.

Connell was struggling with headaches and feeling ‘wiped-out’ but trips to specialists in Manchester and London did not yield many answers.

He had to complete his recuperation back in his native Liverpool but said head coach Neill Collins kept in touch with him.

He said: “Neill was always checking in with me when I wasn’t well and sometimes that means more because it’s off the pitch and not football related. I respect that a lot.

“He speaks to me in private and tells me what I need to do. It’s not always positive – but I think it’s a good thing that I am being pushed.”

His comeback has been mapped out with no effort made to rush him back into the team too early.

In Text Promo Image

He has now completed more than an hour’s play against both Horsham and Bradford City.

And Connell understands he will have to be patient in his pursuit to hit the high standards of last season.

“I think there isn’t really an answer to it, it’s just more about going off how you feel,” Connell added.

“I have done 60 minutes a few times and I have felt fine after it.

“I don’t know whether you step up to 75 or 90 next.

“I am hoping it will be as soon as possible. I think it will take maybe a little while to get back to where I was last season. Hopefully I can get the minutes and just build back up.”

The midfield area has been hit with an injury to Josh Benson – leaving Adam Phillips, Jon Russell, Callum Styles and Herbie Kane as the leading quartet who Connell would have to oust to get back in.

“We have got five other midfielders who are very good and they have been very good this season,” he added.

“I am not expecting to go back into the team straight away. I know I will have to fight for my place.”