The unbreakable spirit and all-too-breakable body of Chris Kirkland

Sometimes, Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland takes his four-year-old daughter, Lucy, to school in the morning.

A few weeks ago, when they were walking across the road to the school gates, a couple of boys came running up to them.

"Are you Chris Kirkland?" one of them asked and before Kirkland could intervene, Lucy, beaming with pride, intervened.

"He is," she shouted, looking up at him. "He is Chris Kirkland."

It made the England goalie well up with happiness.

"She's getting to the age now where she knows what I do," Kirkland says. "She says, 'Are you a goalkeeper?'

"She asked me again last week. I said to her, 'Well, I'm meant to be. Sometimes."

Kirkland is about as modest as Premier League footballers come, but on this occasion there was an extra reason for his self-deprecation.

Last week was not a good week for him and his family.

The injury blight that stopped him becoming England's regular number one was back again.

He had played one game of a loan spell at Doncaster Rovers. He lost his place at Wigan to Ali Al-Habsi last season and was relishing the prospect of playing matches again.

He travelled with Doncaster to Preston to prepare for last Tuesday's away game at Blackpool and went through a warm-up with the rest of the team on the morning of the match.

He was in his room getting ready for the coach journey to Bloomfield Road when there was a click in his back and it felt like he had been jolted by an electric shock.

His back went into spasm. It was hard for him to move.

His roommate, former Spurs keeper Neil Sullivan, called the physio and Kirkland was driven home.

"First of all, there's the embarrassment of it," Kirkland says. "You think, 'It's going to be in the papers again'. People are going to say I can't stay fit.

"Honestly, I feel more embarrassed for my family than for myself. Lucy is growing up now and kids can be cruel. All I have ever been worried about is my family.

"When you have kids, it completely changes everything. They're the first thing you think about and the last thing you think about. Essentially, like any parent, I'd like Lucy to be proud of me.

"A few days later, my wife Leeona saw a piece in the paper that made fun of what had happened. She was upset and that upset me, too. But she knows I will turn it around.

"At first, you just want to be locked in a room and turn your phone off and not see anyone. But I am not after sympathy. There have been players who have been through a lot more than me."

So this is not a story about a player wallowing in self-pity.

It is a story about an ordinary man who is refusing to give up and whose spirit is undimmed.

Of course, he is concerned.

A similar back problem cut short a loan spell at Leicester last season and Kirkland knows anyone wanting to sign him when his Wigan contract runs out at the end of this campaign will be wary.

But the irony of the timing of his injury last week is that his back has never been stronger.

He has been helped by Pilates lessons for eight months and he has acupuncture three times a week.

Later this week, he will travel to a clinic in Milton Keynes to be assessed by doctors who have pioneered glucose injections that strengthen ligaments and have been a great success for other Premier League players.

Kirkland is not ready to wave goodbye to a career that would have seen him established as England's number one from Euro 2004 onwards if it had not been for injuries.

The opposite is true. He is bullish about his prospects.

He looks at the England set-up where goalkeepers are falling over themselves to rule themselves out of Fabio Capello's squad and dreams of forcing his way back in.

He is only 30, after all. He wants to play on for another eight or 10 years.

"First of all, I'd like to regain my place at Wigan and sign a new deal," he says. "I understand that teams are going to be suspicious but I hope somebody will take a chance like Paul Jewell did when I came here.

"That paid off for him and the club and whoever takes me will get a player that is ready to shine again. They will get a player who is hungry to put this behind me, too.

"If there was no end in sight, I would be devastated but I know I am nearly there. People only need to see me training to see that.

"Over the period I've been out of the team at Wigan, I have been fit. Last season, I only missed 14 training sessions. This season, I hadn't missed a single one until I got injured with Doncaster.

"People are going to laugh, but I am more happy with my body now than I ever have been. I know I'm nearly there.

"People will say, 'How can he say that after everything that has happened?' but I know I am getting there. I will get there."

Many of his injuries have been the product of bad luck or sheer bravery. A broken finger here, a broken wrist there, and more bone-jarring collisions with centre-forwards than he cares to remember.

If the cards had fallen differently, he might have been between the posts for Liverpool that night in Istanbul or the man getting his body behind Clint Dempsey's tame shot in Rustenburg in 2010.

"I don't feel cheated by the injuries," Kirkland says. "I know how lucky I am. You only have to pick up the paper in the morning to see what is going on in the world.

"It's just the cards you are dealt. You have to deal with it. I know when I get a run of games again, I will be fine and hopefully I can get back to where I was a few years ago.

"I'm not ready to let my career go. I'm only 30. I just need a little bit of luck - and I will get it."

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