IT IS almost six months since Barnsley’s pre-season friendly at Hull City in July during which Luca Connell began to feel the effects of the illness which would keep him out for the first 16 league games of the season.

The 22-year-old was one of the Reds’ star players last season but missed the first three months of this season with post viral fatigue.

Connell told the Chronicle: “I think the Hull game was the day that it really affected me. After that I didn’t come into Barnsley for two and a half months. I went back to Liverpool and crashed out. The frustrating thing was not knowing how long I would be out for. Normally with an illness you have a rough timeline. It was just about believing in the process and making sure I was ready to come back in.

“I can take positives from it. I have never been through anything like that.

“It’s probably the longest time in my whole life that I haven’t played football.

“If I can get through that, then I can get through anything in games.

“That’s what I was looking forward to when lying on the couch.”

After featuring in three cup games, Connell has started the last four league matches. The Reds are now due to play four games in nine days over the Christmas period.

He said: “I have played three full 90 minutes which has got me ready for it.

“You can see the strength in our squad. You never know if I will play four 90s but I am ready if it comes.”

Barnsley are yet to beat a top ten side.

Connell said: “As soon as we beat one or two teams above us that narrative starts to go, and all the negativity goes out the window.”

Adam Phillips’ scored his first goal of the season in the 1-1 draw with Charlton Athletic on Saturday.

Connell said: “He’s been kicking himself. He’s been working on it in training but it hadn’t been coming.

“He’s had chances which he’s snatched at but it’s unreal to see him get his first goal and he will kick on, there’s no doubt about it.”

Connell is getting used to Neill Collins’ style after playing under Michael Duff last season.

“It’s not too much different. We have still got the same things in place around the club. On the pitch we’re pressing higher and getting after teams.

“But we’re in a similar position and had similar results.

“The gaffer wants me to stay deep a bit more, but sometimes jump forward if we are really getting at teams.”