Alex Baptiste admits the last eight months he's spent out injured have been the toughest of his career to date.

The former Blackburn and Bolton defender signed for Boro last summer, but suffered a crushing injury just 10 minutes into his debut for the club away at York City in pre-season.

Since then, Baptiste has been working hard to return to fitness and has recently re-joined Aitor Karanka's squad on the training pitch at Rockliffe.

"It's probably been the toughest time of my professional career," said Baptiste.

"I haven't really had a big injury like this before, but it's coming to an end so I'm looking forward to what I can produce.

"I don't think I'll ever forget about it - it's just the way football is. It wasn't a bad challenge or anything it was just wrong place at the wrong time, but it's not fresh in my memory. 

"Training has been full-blooded so I've just been getting on with it really.

"Like I said, I've never really had an injury as big as that so it was hard first time round. It was hard for my mind, I had high expectations coming here and to be cut short a week in was heart-breaking.

"I was more gutted that I knew I'd be out for a considerable amount of time and after just signing I couldn't really show what I could do for the squad. But I'm back now and hopefully I can produce something for this club."

Boro's defence have taken centre stage during Baptiste's time out injured, after keeping nine consecutive clean sheets in the league.

The defender has paid tribute to the work his teammates' have done in his absence and now has his eye on winning a spot in the Premier League next season.

"They've been absolutely unbelievable," said Baptiste when asked about his defensive teammates. 

"You look at the back five but it's a whole team thing - Dimi and the defence keeping the clean sheets was phenomenal. 

"I've never seen that in my years playing in this league, they've been a credit to themselves and the whole team has been fantastic. 

"So have the staff and everyone we're all striving for promotion so hopefully we have continue and get into the Premier League because this club deserves it massively."

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