Sunderland's Chopra grateful for Keane support

September 18, 2008

Sunderland striker Michael Chopra has thanked manager Roy Keane for allowing him to sort himself out.

The 24-year-old returned to action for the reserves on Thursday night after serving a three-match ban as a result of a sending-off in pre-season.

However, during his enforced lay-off, he spent a week at the Sporting Chance Clinic in Hampshire dealing with personal problems.

Chopra did so will the full backing of his manager after his off-the-field difficulties were revealed in tabloid newspaper reports.

The player said: "I'm playing with a smile on my face again. It's down to me to work hard now and get my place in the team.

"I had a week away trying to sort myself out, and I'm pleased the gaffer let me do that. I'm grateful to him.

"It's showing in my football and I am getting to be the player I used to be."

Chopra hit the headlines earlier this year when his marital problems - his wife is Heather Swan, who appeared on the ITV2,/i> reality show Wags Boutique - were made public.

She also vowed to support the former Newcastle and Cardiff striker as he entered the clinic, which was set-up by former Arsenal and England defender Tony Adams. The couple have a baby son, Sebastian.

But Chopra is now ready to resume his career and after scoring in the reserves' 2-1 win over Liverpool, will hope he can force his way into Keane's plans for Saturday's derby clash with Middlesbrough at the Stadium of Light.

He told the club's official website: "I need to get a little bit fitter, but everything's going how I planned it and it was great to get a game last night and contribute.

"If I'm not scoring goals, I want to be creating chances for the side and thankfully, I managed to do both last night.

"I would love to be involved against Boro, but we will see what the gaffer does because he's got good options.

"If he picks me, I will be going on the pitch full of confidence.

"Getting a goal last night perhaps gives the manager a headache over who he picks and if he turns to me, I would be delighted."