CORRY Evans has opened up on his Sunderland injury nightmare, revealing his "shock" when he first discovered the full extent of the career-threatening problem and telling of how his desperation to get back playing for the Black Cats delayed his return to action.

Evans spent more than 15 months on the sidelines after tearing his ACL in a home win over Middlesbrough in January, 2023.

The 33-year-old returned for Sunderland at the back end of this season but is now a free agent after his Stadium of Light exit was confirmed when the Black Cats released their retained list earlier this month.

Despite the fact he's currently without a club, Evans was named in the Northern Ireland squad for the upcoming friendlies against Spain and Andorra and the midfielder says he never once considered retirement throughout his lengthy spell on the sidelines.

He was, however, taken aback when he discovered just how serious his injury was. Despite being forced off in the game against Middlesbrough, Evans didn't think he'd suffered major damage - even though he did have to cancel a planned meal that evening with Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill, who was a visitor at the Stadium of Light that day.

“I spoke to Michael before the Boro game. We were going to meet up afterwards and go for a bite to eat," he says.

“Initially, I thought I’d done a ligament on the outside of my leg, as that’s where the pain was.

“I remember going up to see Michael afterwards in the boardroom for a chat. I told him I’d probably need a scan, so we’d have to cancel dinner — but that it was no big deal.

“There was no thought of an ACL, that wasn’t mentioned. Maybe the Sunderland physios thought it, but if they did they didn’t tell me it.

“It wasn’t until the next day when I got the results of the scan that I realised how bad it was.

“I was shocked when I was told it was a rupture of the ACL. When you hear ACL, you think the worst, don’t you?”

Evans expected to be back sooner than April this year but encountered obstacles in the final stretch of his rehab programme - and admits he was his own worst enemy because of his desperation to return to the pitch.

“I should have been back earlier, but I rushed things towards the end and that set me back," he said.

“I was able to get my head around the injury, it was all the setbacks that killed me. I was guilty of pushing myself too hard on the training pitch because I was too desperate to get back to playing.

“You have to tick a lot of boxes along the way. You have to prove you’re fit enough to train and then fit enough to play.

“I pushed so hard to get back with the lads, I got muscle injuries that set you back two weeks.

“And those two weeks become four weeks, and four weeks turns into six weeks. That happened more than once. And it all adds up.”


Despite those setbacks, he never once considered calling it a day.

“Retirement never crossed my mind. Not once," he told media in Northern Ireland.

“Mine was a straight ACL tear. I was always confident I would get back to my level again, it was just a matter of being patient.

“My knee is in a good place now, and I still feel I’ve a lot to give both for my country and for a club. Not once did I think I wouldn’t get the chance to play for Northern Ireland again.

“If I’m being honest, I wasn’t thinking about international football. My aim was to get back to playing for my club, and if you do that then Northern Ireland will follow.

“And that’s what happened. I’ve missed a couple of years, and in that time the squad has changed a lot. I’m looking forward to playing with the new lads because there’s some exciting talent there.”

The next move for Evans - who is working on his coaching badges - is unclear at this stage after his Sunderland exit but he still believes he has plenty to offer for club and country.

He said: “The hardest part is coping with a long-term injury. It is a mental challenge more than anything.

“Sometimes you can never see the light at the end of the tunnel. You are stuck in the gym when you just want to get out and train with the lads. You might feel fine, but you’re not, and you know you can’t.

“But it’s behind me, and I’m now looking to the future and to the rest of my career.”