NATHAN Luscombe admits he was embarrassed when he saw his photograph in SportMail during the summer – even likening himself to a sumo wrestler.
The midfielder reported back to Maiden Castle in early July two stone overweight.
But now, four months on, Luscombe has shed the pounds and finds himself in the first-team, having been handed his full league debut at Chesterfield last weekend.
The Gateshead-born star is determined to keep his starting jersey and that is why his choice of post-game indulgence is far more sensible than it used to be.
“I’ve always said I was ashamed when I came back,” said Luscombe as he spoke candidly about his pre-season weight problems.
“I was embarrassed to see my photo in the paper – I could have been a sumo wrestler I was that big.
“In the summer it’s too easy. You’ll say ‘it’s okay, I’ll have a burger and watch the football’.
“I came back probably two stone overweight, but I’ve lost most of that now.
“I still want to lose a few more pounds and I can still get fitter.
“I’m able to run quickly and can get around but there are times when you think ‘I’m knackered here’.
“I’ve been staying behind to do extra work and even things like head tennis help get you in shape.
“But you’ve just got to limit your lifestyle as well – a treat for me now is a celery stick!
“But now I’ve got that motivation to stay in the team and that’s where I want to be.”
In fairness, Luscombe refuses to dodge the issue of his summer struggle and insists it is something he will not let happen again.
“The staff weren’t too happy with the shape I came back in and that’s fair enough,” admitted the 21-year-old, who has impressed supporters during his early-season cameos.
“I went on holiday and thought I would be okay, because I was never that big when I came back previously.
“It wasn’t the fact I couldn’t run, but it took me longer to get in shape and catch up with the rest of the lads, by which point I wasn’t in the team.
“But I’ve worked hard to get in shape and if I just keep cracking on then hopefully around Christmas time, I’ll be down to my fighting weight and will be flying.
“And there’s no way I’ll be going wild next summer because I’ve got to repay the faith Hartlepool have shown in me.
“I can’t come back the way I did last pre-season.”
FULL story in Friday’s Mail ...