MICHAEL TURNER insists Sunderland must reap the rewards from set-piece specialist Seb Larsson.
The Black Cats struggled from dead balls last season, with none of their recognised centre-halves getting on the scoresheet during the campaign.
But Larsson’s pinpoint delivery will hand Sunderland a major boost from corners and free-kicks, with Turner flicking on the Swedish international’s cross for Stephane Sessegnon’s equaliser in yesterday’s 1-1 friendly draw with Arminia Bielefeld.
Turner told the Echo: “Seb puts in some superb balls and if you can make a run and just go with it to get into the area and get free, there’s a chance.
“He’s got great delivery and I’m sure we’ll score more from set-pieces next year. We didn’t get enough goals from set-pieces last season so it’s important we work on that.”
Turner has enjoyed a productive if tiring pre-season so far after back-to-back 90 minutes against Bielefeld and York City.
The ex-Hull centre-half saw the second half of his season ruined by knee ligament damage last year and he was forced to suspend all training over the summer to allow the injury to heal naturally.
Turner was lagging behind his team-mates in the fitness stakes when they returned to work 12 days ago, but the 27-year-old hopes he is now beginning to play catch-up.
“It’s important to get minutes under my belt, that’s where you get the fitness,” he said.
“The last bit of yesterday was a bit of a grind after the game the other day and we’ve been training hard before the game too.
“It’s been tough, but it’s been what I needed and I feel like I can be ready for selection when the season starts.
“I wasn’t really allowed to do any running over the summer. I was just told to rest with the programme I was given to strengthen my leg.
“Obviously when you come back and the other lads are flying, it’s tough.
“But me and the other lads who were out need to play as much as possible and train as hard as we can.
“The knee’s fine now, it feels good.
“There’s a programme that I do which the guys have sorted out. It’s important I carry that on.”