Alim Ozturk identifies his key aim during Sunderland's pre-season preparations
Alim Ozturk is looking to build on a ‘tough’ first season at Sunderland - and is relishing the chance to showcase his work rate in pre-season.
The Turkish centre back enjoyed a difficult start to life on Wearside and found himself out of favour until the dying weeks of the season.
But circumstance handed Ozturk a chance to shine as the Black Cats secured a play-off place - the former Hearts man showing a real consistency amid some mixed performances from his defensive counterparts.
Indeed, Ozturk’s fine form saw him handed a start in the League One play-off final, although he was powerless to prevent the heartbreaking late defeat to Charlton Athletic.
But with the side now back in pre-season training, Ozturk is looking to build on a debut season which saw him rack-up 20 appearances after joining from Turkish side Boluspor.
“It was a tough season last season for me as I had to wait a long time for my chance,” he said, speaking to safc.com.
“But when I got my chance, I took it.
“It would have been much better if we won the Play-Off final – but it wasn’t to be.
Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter
The i newsletter cut through the noise
“I had a really good break and a nice holiday which means I am refreshed for the start of the season.”
Ozturk and his team-mates return to the Academy of Light on Tuesday as they kicked-off their pre-season programme, which will see the Black Cats take in four friendly fixtures and a trip to Portugal.
Jack Ross is set to put his squad through a programme designed to ensure they can cope with the rigours of League One - and Ozturk is keen to get stuck into the hard work.
And the 26-year-old has already identified his key priority ahead of the big kick-off on August 3, when Oxford United visit the Stadium of Light.
“I can’t wait to get started properly.
“You have to enjoy the hard work of pre-season.
“That is the first thing for us to do and I want to work hard, get as fit as possible and I will.”