Sunderland defender will play in practice match

STAYING POSITIVE ... Sunderland defender Michael Turner.

STAYING POSITIVE ... Sunderland defender Michael Turner.

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SUNDERLAND are organising a behind-closed-doors game for Michael Turner in order to speed the big centre-half’s return to full fitness.

Turner has made a stop-start recovery since injuring knee ligaments in Sunderland’s game against Everton at the Stadium of Light back in November.

But in the last week he has come on in leaps and bounds and Steve Bruce is anxious to help the defender recapture his form and fitness as swiftly as possible.

“It’s great news as far as Michael is concerned and we’re hoping to press on quickly now,” said the manager.

“He’s back in training and we’re looking to organise a friendly next week to help him with his match sharpness.

“He’s had setbacks on the way to recovery, which he’s found very frustrating.

“It has not been a straightforward injury and as a result the recuperation hasn’t been straightforward either.

“But the wonderful thing is that the discomfort he was feeling in his knee previously has now gone, completely gone.

“He is totally, totally happy and that has allowed us to get some work into him.

“Next, he could do with a game to sharpen him and after that he won’t be too far away.”

Tomorrow’s game against Man City comes too soon for the 27-year-old former Hull City star.

But he might have a chance of being involved against West Bromwich Albion at the Stadium of Light next week.

Bruce admits he can’t wait to have the strapping centre-half back.

He said: “He’s such an important player for us because he’s a big man who loves heading the ball and he’s going to be a big player for us in every sense of the word for the remaining few games.

“Those games are games where you need to be rough and tough when called on, where you need to put your foot or your head in and you need to get up and head the ball clear as it comes into the box.

“Those are all qualities that are strengths of Michael’s.

“We’ve missed him badly at times since the injury and it’s great to think we might have him available to us for the run-in.”