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Boji bounces back with a smile

Valeri Bojinov takes kick 0809

Valeri Bojinov takes kick 0809

Blues comeback star Valeri Bojinov insists that he always knew he would come through his winter of discontent after an admirable return to action in the 1-0 victory over Sunderland at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Luckless Bulgaria striker Boji ruptured his achilles in the warm-up at Aston Villa back in August and has spent a frustrating season fighting for recovery and match fitness to make an impression on manager Mark Hughes.

But the smile never left the 23-year-old forward's face during his six-month test, a remarkably good-humoured reaction for a player who had suffered a cruciate knee injury six minutes into his debut the previous season.

Boji, cheered to the rafters for his 65-minute return, said: "Being out was frustrating, but I'm a young player and my head is very strong. I said 'Boji, you want to get back to playing big-time football and you must work hard for that.'

"I knew that I had to stay strong, and I am a naturally strong person - not just on the football pitch, but in everything, the PlayStation as well!

"Being injured in the warm-up is just the worst, but that's football and you have to accept it. Everything changed for me, but every player knows he lives with the possibility. You can only look after yourself when you are fit - try to train better, eat better, sleep better."

It was only Bojinov's second start since joining from Serie A club Fiorentina in August, 2007 as one of the highest-rated young strikers in Europe, and he said: "I enjoyed it greatly because I don't like to be not playing.

"I don't want to be sitting on the bench for the game. So when the boss says, 'Boji, I want you to play,' I was very happy and enjoyed seeing my name up there on the board before the kick off.

"I played an hour and there were no problems, so for me this is very important. I'm very happy that everything is OK. I want to say a big 'thank you' to the boss for giving me the possibility to play in the Premier League.

"It has been very hard for me because of the injuries. I say a big 'thank you' to the physio, the medical staff, my team - everybody here. They have helped me to get over a frustrating time. Now I'm back to normal and I hope I can score a goal for them next time."

Boji shared Sunday's general frustration at not gaining a more emphatic scoreline against the visitors, who had full-back George McCartney sent off for tugging Shaun Wright-Phillips as he went through after only 13 minutes.

He admitted: "This game was very difficult for us, especially as we missed a penalty. Playing 11 men against ten is sometimes a problem for the team that still has 11 - Sunderland played a defensive game and made it hard for us to win. But even to win 1-0 was enough, because we needed three points to keep us on track."

Boji was moved by the ovation when he made way for Craig Bellamy. He smiled: "I say to our fans thank you for supporting me - I want to be able to play well for your club, to play well and score goals for the team. I'm happy when we score, whether it is me or not, but I want to get my share of goals."

First Team News

International callup news

Valeri Bojinov at training 0809

A host of City players have been called up for international duty, with several set to face each other over the next couple of weeks.

First Team News

Blues boss backs on-the-spot Robinho

Robinho 0809

Mark Hughes has given his blessing - and a large slice of sympathy - to Robinho as Blues penalty taker after the Brazilian star hit his first-half spot kick straight at Sunderland's goalkeeper in City's 1-0 victory.

Match Report

City v Sunderland 22-03-2009