Sunderland defender reveals he has been playing through the pain barrier
Alim Ozturk has revealed how he battled through the pain barrier at Gillingham - because he knew Sunderland needed him.
The Black Cats centre-back returned to the side at Priestfield following a hamstring lay-off, with Phil Parkinson forced to reshuffle his backline after an injury crisis saw his ranks depleted.
A difficult pitch and a physical game was not the ideal comeback for Ozturk, but the former Turkish Under-21 international knew the team needed him - and he was happy to oblige.
“I had trained for a few days with the team and felt good so I had to play, and I did for the team,” he explained.
“It was alright until the last 17 minutes when everything was getting a bit stiff, so I was struggling a little bit at the end.
“I wanted to play through, but the 90 minutes was the maximum for me. I couldn’t do more.
“The pitch tonight was not helping as well. It was slippy everywhere and the way how the game went was not like what I needed.
“But you have to play the game. I had to do it.”
A free signing following his release from Boluspor in June 2018, Ozturk has struggled to hold down a regular starting spot for the Black Cats this term, with his recurring hamstring injury limiting his chances to impress Parkinson.
But with a corner now hopefully turned, the 27-year-old is keen to stake his claim to a place to the new man in charge.
“I was struggling with my hamstring for a while and didn’t expect it, to be honest,” admitted Ozturk.
“But every time when I came back, I felt it again so it was a strange.
“But it was alright last week so I trained a big part with the group.
“Of course, you want to be fit, especially when the new manager comes in, and I hope I can stay fit for a long time now.”
Ozturk will be hoping to retain his place for the visit of Coventry City on Saturday - where a League One victory seems a must.
“I think we will be ready for the next two games,” added the defender.
“Hopefully we can get good results there, and put ourselves in a good position in the league.
“Everything looks different then.”