Leeds injury was a pivotal point of my career, says Keane

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The Sunderland manager Roy Keane has claimed his clash with Alf-Inge Haaland, which put him out of action for nine months, actually saved his career. The former Manchester United midfielder suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury after a challenge with the then Leeds player Haaland nine years ago.

Keane returned to Elland Road last night for his second match in charge of the Black Cats and chose to remember that Haaland incident.

"It was probably a good thing that happened to me. I had to look at the bigger picture and what I was doing on and off the pitch," he said. "It put me out for nine months but, in a strange way, it was one of the turning points of my career because I was taking everything for granted.

"I wasn't leading the right lifestyle. I wasn't preparing properly and when I was out I had to step back and take a look at where I was going wrong. So as much as there was a downside, believe it or not there was a plus. I learnt a lot about myself."

Elsewhere, in the Premiership, the new Middlesbrough signing Robert Huth has targeted a return to senior action after a successful outing for the reserves.

The 22-year-old German international, a £6m deadline day signing from Chelsea, played 61 minutes for Middlesbrough's reserve team on Tuesday in front of the manager Gareth Southgate. It was Huth's first match since he completed his rehabilitation from ankle surgery.

In terms of a first-team debut, Saturday's Premiership trip to Bolton might come too soon for the Berlin-born player, and the Carling Cup tie with Notts County next Wednesday night could be a more realistic target.

Huth is now desperate to get the nod from Southgate, although he knows he may have to remain patient. He said: "Ultimately, it is not my decision, it is up to the management. Whatever they decide, I have to go with." Huth was paired in central defence with the youngster Matthew Bates for the 1-0 defeat by Sheffield United's second string at Chesterfield and turned in an accomplished display.

It was his first taste of action since the World Cup finals, where he was held back by the same ankle injury which delayed his move to Boro and required an operation.

Southgate will eventually look to pair Huth with the loan signing Jonathan Woodgate in central defence. Huth even tried to persuade the reserve team coach Colin Cooper to give him a longer run-out on Tuesday. Huth said: "It was a good game for me to play in. I spoke to the manager and he told me to play in the game to get some more fitness, and I was very pleased with the way my fitness level was. I said to Coops at half-time, 'If it is possible, I could probably play 90 minutes'.

"But we made a decision before the game and we stuck to it. I have missed all of pre-season and I have only trained for two-and-a-half weeks now, so it was quite a hard game. But my ankle was solid, which was the main concern for me."

Huth was the subject of a late bid from Middlesbrough's derby rivals Newcastle, but having already given his word to the Teessiders, he opted for the Riverside Stadium instead. He said: "It is great, I am really enjoying myself. After being at a different club for six years, it is a bit of a change. But all the lads have made me feel comfortable and welcome, and the manager as well as his team around him, so it has been very easy for me to settle in."