Football: Christie looks on the bright side as Boro prolong agony

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The Independent Online
THE MIDDLESBROUGH striker Malcolm Christie can shrug off the depression of another dismal defeat in the knowledge that his long-standing injury nightmare is finally over.

Christie, 24, broke his right leg in training 14 months ago and after he made a comeback as an eighth-minute substitute in a Uefa Cup tie away to Banik Ostrava on 30 September, doctors discovered the injury had still not completely healed - and that was why he still needed to take painkillers to get through training.

A stress fracture was diagnosed and it meant another five months on the sidelines, but the former Derby and England Under 21 striker returned to the Boro starting line-up for the first time since October last year, at Portsmouth on Tuesday night - and scored the opening goal.

Sadly for him, Portsmouth hit back to claim a 2-1 win and Christie was substituted after a little over an hour. "If there was another game this morning I believe I would be available," Christie said. "My main feeling after the game was disappointment for everybody else in the dressing- room but it was a shock when I heard I was playing and I've come through it really well.

"Hopefully, I can be an asset for the manager for the rest of the season now. I've rewarded him with a goal, but we need to start picking up points again and with strikers like Mark Viduka and Szilard Nemeth also getting near fitness again and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Joseph-Desire Job around we'll start doing that."

The Middlesbrough manager, Steve McClaren said: "I can talk all day about our injury problems but Malcolm's a plus for us. He looked sharp and showed great attitude although we always knew he wouldn't be able to go much more than an hour. But it was a good hour and he seems to have come through well."

Christie recalls: "When everybody thought my leg had healed from the initial injury I just couldn't understand why the pain hadn't gone away. To be honest, I just kept popping more and more painkillers to mask it in training, but it was a relief in the end to find out that there was something wrong."

"That meant five more months out but I was asked to play against Portsmouth and I admit there was a little bit of fear. Within the first 10 minutes I took a crunching tackle, though, and everything was OK. I felt good.

"I made a wrong decision after scoring the goal and should have had a second instead of letting the goalkeeper save but it's the way it goes.

"The main thing is sorted now. They inserted a steel rod down my leg and that will always be there, but my confidence is back and I can hopefully start making a contribution again."

For Boro and McClaren, however, the injury jinx continues with the veteran centre-back Colin Cooper facing scans to discover the damage he did to his thigh which forced him off after just 29 minutes at Fratton Park.

McClaren, who has yet to register a Premiership victory this year, and who is still without his first-choice centre-backs Chris Riggott and Ugo Ehiogu, complained: "You wouldn't want to be a centre-back at our club. You would have no chance of staying on your feet."