“I’m the same Massimo…” – Sheffield Wednesday’s Massimo Luongo talks tough tackles, Darren Moore’s leadership and showing Wednesdayites what he’s all about

Before arriving at Sheffield Wednesday, Massimo Luongo was a 30+ games per season man. Now, after a difficult first couple of seasons, the Australian international is out to show Wednesdayites what he can do.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 5:00 pm

“It’s sucked… The last 18 months has sucked,” he told The Star ahead of the start of the 2021/22 campaign. “Both seasons I’ve started really well, been really fit, and the team has been doing well. Even last season, in the first few games I felt like I was playing well and at as high a level as I have done in some time. So it’s been frustrating.”

Now though, he’s determined to try put things right as the Owls battle for promotion out of League One at the first time of asking – but he knows that he’s got to keep doing the right things in order for that to happen.

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He said, “I’ve had a year out with injury, and my focus is just playing… If I can stay fit, and keep playing, then I can show everybody here – and in the leagues – that I’m the same Massimo that I was before the injury. And that’s all I want to do. I just want to play, play well, and make a name for myself here as I have done at every other club I’ve been at in my career…

“I do everything right. I’m a good professional. But it’s always contact injuries, or something an ankle roll. I’ve had concussion. This one was a hyperextension that led to an operation, and this has probably been my biggest challenge so far.”

“I’ve got to be on it in terms of what I do off the pitch, how I look after myself. Because I want to put myself in the best frame of mind and best physical condition for each game. I’ve got to be on it 24/7 until the end of my career now, this injury has impacted me that much. It’s still there, I’m not going to shy away from it, but it’s manageable. I’ve had a good preseason, feel fit and strong, and on game days I feel great.”

Luongo joined the Owls in 2019 from Queens Park Rangers, and immediately seemed to settle into the heart of their midfield alongside Barry Bannan, putting in a number of impressive showings as Garry Monk’s side made a surprise push to the top end of the Championship table.

Massimo Luongo is out to impress at Sheffield Wednesday this season.

But then things started to get difficult. He dealt with injuries, a red card that went on to be rescinded, and started to miss matches. The stats in the games that followed speak for themselves.

The midfield man picked up a groin injury early last year, and after being incorrectly sent off against Blackburn Rovers, Wednesday won just one of the nine games that he missed – before drawing with Nottingham Forest and beating Bristol City in his first two games back.

Since then it’s been a battle, but having undergone a full preseason and seemingly gotten his injury concerns under control, the 28-year-old is raring to go. And you best believe his injury won’t mean he’s backing out of anything in the heart of midfield.

“Maybe I’ll do that in training,” he said with a smile. “But in games I’m all or nothing… Mentally, I think if you’re thinking about that then that’s when you end up getting injured anyway.

“I’m quite robust, I’m in the gym, and I try to do everything right before the game then I can do tackles like that. I got smashed in Port Vale, it felt like he almost broke my leg, but I feel like I’m good enough to ride those tackles and deal with them.

“I’ve got that feeling back of being a footballer again – and playing the games helps so much. That feeling of doing what I love doing again.”

And he’s doing it under a manager who he rates incredibly highly, with Luongo praising Darren Moore for the way he’s gone about his business since coming in at Middlewood Road and how he ‘keeps his own house in order’.

When asked about Moore, the former QPR man said, “The detail has been really good. The detail in how he wants us to play, or press. And the shape. For me, the details are what I look for in a manager and they’ve been really good. I’ve taken points from him and tried to use them in my game.

“He leads by example… If I want to tell somebody how to do something, I’ve got to make sure I have no problems doing it myself. I can’t fault anything that he’s done - so when he says something, negative or positive, you listen. Because he keeps his own house in order. That’s how you can get the most out of players.”

And that’s what everybody’s hoping for, now. Moore has built a team that – on paper – has certainly got what it takes to make a real challenge in League One as the Owls eye an immediate return to the Championship.

For Luongo, who is no stranger to the third tier having played there with Swindon Town, he sees it as an opportunity to get back to his best. He’s got a fanbase to impress.

“I’m in my last year,” he said. “I haven’t really had the best of times here, so I’ve got one last chance to make an impression at Sheffield Wednesday. And that’s my main goal. I want to be available for as many games as I can, and make that impression that I haven’t had chance to do yet.”