SEPARATED from loved ones and a tapestry of tattoos carved into his flesh, Erik Tonne knows a thing or two about coping with pain.
So it comes as no surprise to learn that Sheffield United’s Norwegian winger believes the trials and tribulations of the past 12 months can only help, not hinder, his footballing career.
Tonne appeared destined for big things when he scored twice in two appearances during the early stages of Danny Wilson’s reign before a frustrating loan spell with York City hampered his progress.
But the 21-year-old told The Star last night: “I actually feel much better equipped to challenge and develop here now.
“I think I’ve come on and improved not only as a footballer but, more importantly, as a person.
“The situations you really take something from are the ones when things aren’t going well.
“If everything is handed to you on a plate and you never have to work through a difficult period in life then, from my point of view at least, I don’t think you learn as much about yourself.”
Tonne gave Wilson a gentle nudge on Monday evening with a clinical finish during the 6-0 rout of Zejtun Corinthians.
True, he is likely to be confronted by more accomplished opponents should be force himself into the United manager’s first team plans next term.
The Maltese First Division side were enthusiastic but did not exactly pose a stringent test at Ta’Qali international training complex.
Tonne, however, is adamant he can emerge as a standard bearer for Bramall Lane’s latest generation of young talent.
Joe Ironside, who was also on target against Corinthians, Elliott Whitehouse, Callum McFadzean and Terry Kennedy, are among those expected to challenge for first team places between now and the end of the forthcoming campaign.
“One of the things I really like about this manager is that he is willing to give young players a chance,” Tonne said.
“That is not always the case but all off the staff here encourage you and give you the same amount of their time as the older, more experienced members of the group.
“There is a lot of work for us to do but it feels as if we are a part of something because, although the more established players are vitally important, there is a bunch of us who are all around the same age starting to come through.
“Hopefully, we’ve all got good things ahead of us here.”
“Although I come from Norway and started playing my football over there I feel as if I’ve really grown-up here with Sheffield United,” Tonne added. “It can be difficult being away from home and not seeing your family much but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make.
“It’s not easy but it does make you grow-up much more quickly and become, hopefully, a more rounded individual.”
Ultimately, though, Tonne wants to use United’s stay on the Mediterrean island to further his own claims for a more prominent role over the coming months rather than championing those of others.
A perfectly-executed far post shot against Corinthians should, unless Wilson decides to use all of the options at his disposal, should be rewarded with another start against Hibernians tonight.
“This trip is very important because it is a chance to try and put myself at the forefront of the manager’s mind and prove to him that I am worth a chance in the team,” Tonne said.
“We are all away together, working together every single day and looking forward to the new season.
“It’s a good environment to be in.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone mention last season since we came here.
“Everyone here is focused on the one coming-up.”