Rhys Williams muscles in to tighten Middlesbrough’s defence

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BORN-AGAIN Rhys Williams goes into Middlesbrough’s home game with Leicester City tomorrow admitting he’d feared his career was over.

The 22-year-old Australian has been a revelation for Tony Mowbray’s men since returning from an 11-month pelvic problem.

Boro are now clear of relegation trouble having picked up seven points from the last nine, thanks in large part to the form of Williams.

But the Academy graduate admits it’s all a far cry from the dark days of his year-long rehabilitation.

“It’s been a nightmare 11 months,” he said. “There were stages when I thought I would never get back, that I would never play again.

“Other times I considered not returning to England, but playing in the Australian A-League.

“Although it wasn’t in ideal circumstances, getting on and playing for the first time in almost a year against Reading was such a relief.”

Williams, a midfielder by trade, has been used in central defence since his return and has shone in that unfamiliar role.

“I might previously have struggled at centre-back,” he admitted, “But I’ve put on a bit more muscle over the past year and that’s helped me these last few games..

“Even so, I’ve been doing extra work to keep on top of the problem. The lads were off most of last week, but I was in most days. I know that if I slack off I run the risk of it happening again.

“We will have to keep monitoring the problem for at least the next 12 to 18 months, though I feel that the time out has made me a physically stronger player.”

The two-week international break between Boro’s impressive 2-1 win over Watford and this Saturday’s visit of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Foxes was perfect timing for Williams.

And he explained: “I think the gap came at the right time for me. Although I’d only played three and a bit games, that’s three and a bit more than I’d played in the previous 11 months. It has given me time to rest the injury but also to reflect on what I need to improve in my game.”

He added: “I don’t mind where I play either, to be honest. I’m just glad to be playing, but if the manager wants me to play at centre-back then I’m happy to do that. With our current striker shortage, I’ll play up front if he wants me to!

“Back home in Australia I was an attacking midfielder as a kid, but was then moved to right-back when I came to Middlesbrough. The manager can see the plusses and minuses in my game, but the good thing for me is that everyone now knows that I can play in different positions and do a job.”