MICHAEL Turner hopes his longest run of first-team football since signing for Sunderland will see him hit the ground running next season.
Turner endured a campaign of two halves after the hangover from the previous season’s knee injury restricted the centre-half to a watching role on the sidelines until his first competitive appearance in October’s draw with West Brom.
It wasn’t until injuries to Wes Brown and Titus Bramble at the turn of the year that Turner was able to hold down a regular starting spot, with the 28-year-old an ever-present in the final 20 games of the season.
That was the former Hull City man’s best run of consecutive games in his three years at the Stadium of Light after being persistently plagued by injuries and suspensions during his opening two seasons with the club.
Turner believes he will reap the rewards from that sequence when Sunderland report for pre-season training after almost being forced to start his fitness from scratch at the same time last year.
He told the Echo: “I’m just pleased I was able to carry on playing and had a long string of games.
“It must be my longest run since my first season and, even then, it was a bit disrupted by suspensions and injuries.
“I’m just pleased to have been keeping fit and being in the team.
“It’s been nice to finish the season strongly and now I can look forward to having a nice break in the summer and come back fresh.”
Turner endured a miserable pre-season last year after he was forced to undergo complete rest following the end of the campaign, in a bid to cure the knee problem which had troubled him for six months.
The defender looked desperately sluggish during Sunderland’s friendly programme and the £4million man later admitted he wasn’t in sufficient shape to feature during the opening exchanges of the season.
But Turner hopes he will be on a level playing field this time around for Martin O’Neill’s first pre-season in charge of the Black Cats.
“Last pre-season was tough for me because I got told to rest completely over the summer,” added Turner.
“I hadn’t done any running, so it was difficult coming back being behind everyone else because the lads tend to keep themselves fit and come back in half decent shape.
“It was a tough start for me, so, fingers crossed, this year I can come back stronger.”