Sunderland defender Alim Ozturk has forced his way into the starting line-up at the Stadium of Light recently.

Jack Ross has admitted to the Chronicle that Sunderland defender Alim Ozturk wasn’t even training with the first-team at stages this season.

Ozturk was brought to Sunderland last summer, but endured an error-prone start to life at the Stadium of Light.

The Turkish defender seemed to slip way down the pecking order, but he has been recalled more recently.

Ross dropped both Jack Baldwin and Tom Flanagan following Sunderland’s 5-4 defeat to Coventry City in April.

And Ozturk has been involved with the Black Cats ever since.

The centre-back has generally impressed when called upon, and Ross admits that he has done well to stay professional and force his way back into contention.

“Sometimes he was training away from the main group because we had so many players but he’s always trained properly,” the Scottish boss said. 

“When I spoke to him I always had that feel that he was ready to go. He was desperate to take that opportunity, pestering me in a good way.

“It’s a credit to him that he was able to cope with the disappointment and grasp that opportunity when came along.

“He looks a lot sharper and fitter in this part of the season than when he first came.”

Ozturk was actually sent off in his last outing for Sunderland, against Portsmouth in the play offs.

The powerful defender brought down Gareth Evans and was harshly banished from the field.

Sunderland have successfully appealed against that red-card though, which means that Ozturk is likely to start against tomorrow evening in the second-leg.

Sunderland travel to Fratton Park looking to protect a 1-0 lead in the tie.

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