PROFESSIONAL athletes are trained to ‘take the positives’ out of any situation, but seeing the bright side of a broken leg would seem to be pushing it.

Not if you are Malachi Napa.

It would be incredibly easy for the 20-year-old to still be stewing over his latest setback.

A poor tackle ended his first-team return after 22 minutes, having lost the second half of last season to an illness.

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But even when on crutches the winger’s trademark smile has lit up rooms since he has started rehabilitation work at Oxford United’s training ground.

“I’m a faithful person and I believe things happen for a reason,” he said.

“Maybe it’s to give me time to build myself up.

“I know what I need to improve and they are the things I’m allowed to work on now, like strengthening and getting more powerful.

“Each time I’ve come back stronger so I’m hoping this time I’ll come back ten times stronger.”

It is an impressive attitude, although the initial reaction was pure shock.

The winger was in plenty of pain after the tackle, but had no idea of the severity.

He said: “It was very painful, but when we were doing the assessments I tried to get up and when I did it felt a bit weird.

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“I moved my shin pad. Then the emotion came into it.”

With the recovery depending on the bone regrowing, there is no accurate return date, but that sense of rising panic quickly subsided.

Napa is full of praise for United’s medical staff, who have got him back to fitness before.

He has also seen close friends Shandon Baptiste, Rob Hall and Jon Obika come through similar setbacks to start playing again.

Of those, Baptiste, who like Napa had two setbacks in quick succession, is a powerful influence.

The winger said: “Shandon overcame a bad season and look at him now, he’s come back stronger and looking sharper.

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“It’s very motivational seeing Shandon doing well.”

The other source of support has come from United’s fans.

Despite making just four starts for the club, Napa is a popular figure and the reaction since the injury has meant the world.

He said: “I just want to say thank you for all the messages.

“It’s hard to reply to everyone, but the fanbase are very supportive, which makes me very grateful.”