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FOOTBALL: Ball vows to bounce back for Big Eck.

Byline: DAVID LEGGAT

MICHAEL BALL has pledged to be back in the Rangers rearguard before the end of the season, writes DAVID LEGGAT.

It had been feared that he was all washed up when he needed a second operation on his dodgy knee in the summer.

But now the Merseysider, a pounds 6m signing from Everton 15 months ago, says: "I will be back as good as new ... and it will be this season.

"I won't be pinned down to setting myself a target but it could be January or maybe March.

"I am confident I will play before the campaign is over."

And that will be the first time Rangers fans will have seen the real Ball in action, their first view of the man who made his England international debut as a 22-year-old.

He never really got the chance to show a glimpse of his ability after switching to Ibrox, before being crocked.

So far Ball is best remembered for touchline bust-up with Dick Advocaat, who hauled him off at Parkhead as Rangers slumped in the Scouser's Old Firm debut. It is something which rankles and he said: "I certainly don't want the fans up here to remember me just for that."

Ball's problem has been with a tendon in the right leg, a complaint commonly known as Jumper's Knee.

"The trouble with the knee is similar to what Ronaldo and Alan Shearer have had.

"When I was at Everton I wanted to play and help them out so I had injections, and then in the summer it felt okay.

"There was a long medical process involved before I was cleared to sign for Rangers and then all the wear and tear brought it on again.

"It was after a game against Dundee. I didn't feel anything until the morning after when I could barely walk.

"When I saw the surgeon Richard Steadman in the States, he told me getting those injections was just about the worst thing I could have done.

"He said they may have been all right for six months - but not for the rest of my career.

"When I could not do any running in the summer it was discovered I needed another op, though that is often the case with this sort of injury.

"I know there have been players who have been out for a long time with injury and come back and never been as good as they had been.

"I am confident that will not be the case with me."

CAPTION(S):

NEEDLED: Michael Ball
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Oct 13, 2002
Words:425
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