To Sunderland, by way of Brentford and Milan

24 October 2009 09:06
MOST Sunderland fans will know that Michael Turners career took in Hull, Brentford and Leyton Orient after leaving his first club Charlton seven years ago.

They are less likely to know that he spent six months at Inter Milan during his teenage years with Robbie Keane.

Turner headed for Italy as part of his Academy contract at the Valley to train with Inters Under-19s, as Charlton were a feeder club to the illustrious Serie A outfit. It was an experience that has remained with him ever since and has aided his development into an £8m centre-back.

It has not always been straightforward.

Despite returning from his stint with Inter and being crowned Charltons young player of the year in 2004, it never happened for him on a professional level in south London. He never made an appearance and dropped into League One with Brentford.

For many that could have been the end of the Premier League dream. Instead he responded by earning a move to Hull and he was the bedrock of a defence that formed the base for the Tigers to earn promotion to the top-flight.

Now, having been attracted by Steve Bruce to join Sunderland in August, Turner is showing the sort of form that has led to Fabio Capello monitoring his progress, meaning a World Cup place next summer is not completely out of the question.

Even if he doesnt make it, the mere fact he is now under consideration offers the 25-year-old evidence, if it were needed, that the time he spent in the lower leagues and in Milan were worthwhile.

Going to Italy as a kid was a really exciting time for me. It was exciting to be a part of that. To have that experience on your CV was massive and I learned a lot of stuff out there, said Turner.

It put me in good stead for the future. I was rubbing shoulders with some really big names. We managed to have a few practice games with the first team, trained with them a couple of times as well. Vieri, Seedorf, Robbie Keane were there at the time. To name but a few some great players.

It made you think that was where you wanted to be, although it felt mad at the time. Especially in Italy, a great league. It was exciting.

It toughens you up that kind of thing.

It was the first time Id really lived away from home.

There was a different culture to get used to and its something Ill never forget.

Its a country that really values defending, holding shirts, marking real tight at corners. I suppose I learned a few tricks. It was just a great time. I dont particularly have any great interest in Italian football, Ill watch the odd game on telly.

In some respects those six months in a hostel in Italy were the most glamorous in the early years of his career.

He knows, however, that it was not until his switch to Griffin Park, Brentford, that he started to make his mark.

Ive had a roundabout route to the top, I suppose,

said Turner. You look at League One and not many players there make it to the Premier League. Its disappointing there arent more.

Leaving Charlton made me hungrier to get back to that level in the end.

Obviously, its worked out well, but at the time part of you worries that you wont be good enough. At the age of 19 or 20, you have to find your level.

I believe all players are destined for a level and when youre playing in League One you think to yourself is this the level Im going to be at for the rest of my career Now that Ive got back to the Premier League, I dont want to give it up. Were at the top of the tree in this division and its all about making the most of it. Its a great place to play football.

Theres a lot of recognition, media interest, hype, and youve got to be prepared for all that as well.

Turner, set to partner Anton Ferdinand at the heart of the defence at Birmingham again today, has warmed quickly to life in the North-East, particularly Whitley Bay which he found really nice.

With Sunderland likely to climb into the top four if they win at St Andrews, it all seems perfect for Turner at the moment something he is not willing to take for granted with next summer in mind.

When I first went to Brentford just after I got there the players had to paint the training ground.

That is how bad things were.

That is a massive contrast to where I am now, he said. I like to think I have worked hard to get the excellent conditions here at Sunderland and I will never take them for granted.

That is only five years ago so it has been quite a long journey in a short space of time. I would love that to continue, but Im only focusing on club duty at the moment.

I havent booked my summer holidays yet, but Im getting married in the summer anyway. Thats in May. Getting to the World Cup finals with England would be a dream come true, but I havent got in the squad so far. I just have to keep working as hard as I can and if it comes then great.

Weve got quite a few English players in the Sunderland squad who would love to get the opportunity to play for their country, but its all about being consistent for your club and thats what Im concentrating on at the moment.

Source: Northern_Echo