Sunderland striker Michael Chopra has publicly expressed his gratitude to manager Roy Keane for giving him time to sort out his life away from football.
The 24-year-old played for the reserves on Wednesday after a three-game ban imposed for a pre-season sending-off.
Unflattering stories about Chopra's marriage to Heather Swan, who starred in the reality television show Wags Boutique, appeared in several tabloid newspapers.
"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," he told Sunderland's official website after scoring in the reserves' 2-1 win over Liverpool.
"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."
Now Chopra hopes he can get into Keane's team for Saturday's Premier League north-east derby with Middlesbrough at the Stadium of Light.
"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."
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