FRANCK QUEUDRUE, the Premiership's biggest bad boy last season, has promised Steve McClaren that he has cleaned up his act.

After marking his return to the Middlesbrough team on Sunday by helping them keep a clean sheet, Queudrue insisted he would ditch his unwanted reputation as a "dirty player" and bolster their porous defence.

The Frenchman was sent off three times during the last campaign - more than any other Premiership player - and he missed the club's terrible start to the season as he served a five-match suspension carried over from May.

But Queudrue, 25, kept on the right side of the law against Everton and he claimed it was the start of a new, improved chapter in his Middlesbrough career.

He said: "I don't understand it because I'm not a dirty player. I have never hurt anybody on a football pitch and I'm not nasty.

"Perhaps I try a little too hard but that's the way I play the game.

"I've been sent off too often and I don't want that to happen again, so I'm working on that side of my game.

"But it's very difficult these days because it's very easy to get booked and then you're in danger of being sent off.

"Maybe the best thing to come out of the Everton game, apart from the win, was the fact I didn't get booked or sent off, and that's how I want my season to carry on."

Queudrue's return to the Boro side coincided with their defence becoming more secure than in their previous two home games, against Arsenal and Leeds United, when they shipped seven goals.

The left-back now wants that performance to be a marker for the rest of the season as Middlesbrough, so miserly at the Riverside in 2002-03, look to make up for their poor start to the season.

Queudrue said: "The defence as a unit played very well. Colin Cooper and Gareth Southgate led the back four excellently and keeping a clean sheet was important.

"We have to be known as 'clean sheet Middlesbrough' again because that's what we've based our success on.

"The defence has always been very good here and it was the foundation for the side.

"Everyone knows we've been giving away too many goals this season, so hopefully we're now back on the right track.

"We have to defend well at the back otherwise we'll be in trouble because you can't give away too many goals in the Premiership and hope to do well."

Queudrue was denied the perfect return to first-team action when he had a first-half "goal" not given, even though his header crossed the Everton goalline.

He added: "They should have video replays now in football, but only for incidents where the ball is either over the line or on it - nothing else.

"It would take a few seconds and it would be the right decision. If there's any doubt it shouldn't be a goal, but I think mine was a foot over the line.

"You cannot have videos being played back for every incident like penalty decisons or offsides, though, because what would be the point in having a referee?"

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