The last few games have not been fun. We’ve played well in most of them, yet the majority have also been swayed by utter incompetence on behalf of the divvies with flags and whistles.
So the visit of rapidly spiralling Norwich City to the Stadium of Light should bring a bit of hope, if it wasn’t for our ability to welcome teams in dire form, and somehow find a way to end up the losing side.
Of the current crop of players, the Canaries boast just the one former Sunderland man, our reigning Player of the Season, Danny Batth, who suspiciously came to the end of his time on Wearside on exactly 49 league appearances. Batth’s only featured twice so far, for a grand total of eight minutes, so I fully expect him to make his first start on Saturday, with an imperious showing of no-nonsense defending that we’ve arguably missed for the last few games, because that’s just Sunderland’s luck at the minute.
As for us, we’ve a brace of players who had brief stints in Norfolk; one of Patrick Roberts’ 83 loans away from Man City was to Carrow Road (three games, 0 goals).
The other being Alex Pritchard, who enjoyed an 18 month stint in yellow, following his £8m move from Spurs in 2016, helping himself to seven goals in 38 games.
But for today, we’ll look at someone from the Steve Bruce’s first transfer window, way back in 2009.
August 2009, Sunderland had just finished 16th in their second year back in the big time, Roy Keane and Ricky Sbragia had come and gone, in came Bruce and the first real flexing of Ellis Short’s wallet saw a busy transfer window.
Sunderland had already signed Fraizer Campbell, Paulo da Silva, Lorik Cana, Darren Bent, Lee Cattermole and John Mensah, with seemingly our main criteria for new players being “Must be captain of national or club team”, when we then completed the deadline day capture of Hull’s player of the season, Michael Turner.
Turner’s career prior to Hull spectacular, plodding through the ranks of Charlton, Leyton Orient and Brentford before moving to Humberside in 2006, although bizarrely, he did take in an apprenticeship with Inter Milan in 1998. Despite the notable handicap of playing under Phil Parkinson, Turner became a standout player at Hull, and was integral to their rise to the Premier League in 2008. A solid debut season in the top flight saw rumours of an England call up, and although this never materialised, his form was impressive enough to also spark talk of a move to Liverpool and Man City (hmm).
But instead, Turner moved to Wearside for £4m, and his debut came against his former team, as Sunderland pasted Hull 4-1 at the Stadium of Light; Turner even had an effort turned into Hull’s net by his old teammate Kamil Zayatte in the process. He did eventually get his first goal the following month, netting the fourth in a 5-2 win against Wolves. His first season in red and white was largely a success, only marred by two sendings off, one away to Man City, and the second on the final day, in a 2-1 loss away to Wolves.
However, Turner’s second season was blighted by injury and poor form, limiting him to just 16 appearances in all competitions, though in fairness, we kept a clean sheet in 7 of those games. The injuries didn’t subside until October 2011, and when Turner found himself back in the first team plans, it was in the death throws of Bruce’s reign. Out went Brucie, in came Martin O’Neill, and while we had a brief spell of exciting finishes to matches, our defence was a grim rogues gallery which saw the likes of Wayne Bridge, Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Matt Kilgallon all fight for a place in the team around him.
And so, with the end of the 11/12 season, so too came the end of Turner’s stay in the North East, he left notably slower than he arrived, and with a turning circle that would embarrass the Ever Given, such was the damage done by his persistent knee injuries.
In July 2012, Turner moved to Norwich under Chris Hughton for an undisclosed fee as the Canaries looked to shore up their defence in their second year back in the top flight. Turner managed to steer relatively clear of injury and managed 27 Premier League appearances for his new club, bagging goals against Aston Villa, Swansea and Arsenal in the process, as Norwich claimed an impressive 11th place finish.
The following year however, Norwich’s stay in the Premier League was ended, finishing third bottom in an uninspiring season which saw Turner again struck with injury; he missed almost 3 months of the season after the turn of 2014. Norwich being Norwich though, they bounced straight back up, winning the play-offs under the stewardship of our old friend, Alex Neil.
Turner however, would not enjoy the promotion, and even spent the last 3 months of the season on loan at Fulham, who finished 17th in the Championship. Turner’s only notable contribution being his solitary goal for the Cottagers in his final appearance, a 4-3 win against Boro. The 15/16 season was nothing to write home about for Turner, as Norwich loaned him out to Sheff Wed for the year, but again, injuries meant his game time was severely hampered, and reduced him to just 12 appearances; though he did get a goal against his former loan club, the winner in a 3-2 win against Fulham. Wednesday went on to reach the play-off final that year, but were bested by another of Turner’s clubs, as Hull made the return to Premier League at his expense.
With his Norwich contract expiring and having made just 3 appearances for the club (all in the cups) during the 16/17 season, Turner then made the move down to League One in summer 2017, reuniting with his former Hull boss, Phil Brown, at Southend United. The final two years of Turner’s career went by relatively injury free in the third tier, as the centre back helped to keep Southend a midtable outfit before the following years of chaos set in which would see the club fall to the National League.
In his final appearance of his career, Turner came up against his old club Sunderland, flailing desperately to get out of the third tier at the first time of asking. Southend needed to win to guarantee survival, Sunderland needed a win to keep their slim chances of automatic promotion alive. Naturally, Turner came out on top, as Jack Ross’ Black Cats fluffed their lines and fell to a 2-1 defeat. Apt that a player signed for so much promise, who ultimately failed to live up to expectations would help to deliver one of the major hammer blows to Sunderland of recent years.
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