Sunderland defender Alim Ozturk reveals why he moved to Wearside and how he's adapted to League One

Alim Ozturk training for Sunderland.
Alim Ozturk training for Sunderland.

Turkish defender Alim Ozturk didn't have to sign for Sunderland - in fact he would have been quite content to stay in his homeland playing for second tier side Boluspor.

But when the Black Cats came calling back in June, the prospect of playing for a 'mega club' was simply too good to turn down for the 25-year-old centre-back.

Ozturk has played just seven times for Sunderland after becoming Jack Ross' first signing in the summer, and the defender has had to settle for a place on the bench for most of the campaign.

However, the centre-back, who was born in the Netherlands to Turkish parents, isn't regretting his decision and believes it was an easy choice.

"I was happy in Turkey and wanted to stay. But if a club like Sunderland comes, that is a different story," Ozturk told Dutch website voetbalzone.nl.

"At that moment the other options were actually gone, there was not a club that could match Sunderland.

"If you see the stadium here. Pfft, it’s unbelievable, we play at home for thirty thousand men. You notice everything that this is a club that does not belong in the League One. In terms of stadium, facilities, training accommodation, it is very well arranged.

"This is really a mega club, in the Netherlands this club just belongs to the top three."

Ozturk was impressed by Sunderland's ambition, even though the Black Cats had just suffered back-to-back relegations to League One.

The defender didn't experience some of the club's darkest days last campaign, but has been told by his team-mates how quickly things have changed.

"The ambition is to move quickly up again. If you get relegated twice in a row, that is a blow," said Ozturk.

"It is admirable to see how people deal with it. A lot has changed, the club has been taken over by new people.

"The guys who have been here a bit longer, say that they had a bad year last year. The new owners try to make it into a family club, you notice that in everything.

"It fits well with me. The atmosphere is positive, results also help with that. When you win, it is always good. You hear people complaining less."

Ozturk admits the fast-pace environment of League One has taken a while to get used to.

The defender also played for Scottish side Hearts in the SPL, but believes England's third tier is a higher standard.

"It was a bit of a change again, especially with football. It is a completely different level," said Ozturk when asked about adapting to the English game.

"In Turkey you had the time to play a ball around, but here you do not get that space and time.

"The level in the League One is higher than expected. The people said in advance that the level would be equal to the Premiership in Scotland, but I think this is a bit higher.

"You do not expect it, but there are very nice teams in between. Then I wonder where they would end up in the Eredivisie."

Following Saturday's victory at Plymouth, Sunderland have won their last five league games.

The win at Home Park moved Jack Ross' side up to second in League One, but Ozturk isn't taking anything for granted.

"League One is a very difficult competition, many people do not think so," he added.

"Many teams play very directly, a lot is requested from you physically.

"Only in the league you play 46 games, then I have not even counted the cup matches. Then you can easily reach 60 matches."