MICHAEL Turner hopes he is finally nearing a Sunderland comeback after returning to training from a three-month absence.
The centre-half has been out since November after stretching his posterior cruciate ligament when he collided with a post in Sunderland’s 2-2 draw with Everton.
It has been an injury-hit campaign for the 27-year-old who was out for a month earlier in the season with an ankle injury.
But the former Hull defender returned to light training on Monday and is pencilled in to join his team-mates in full training next week.
Turner said: “It’s been a frustrating time but all players pick up injuries in their career and thankfully I don’t get too many.
“It’s the longest I’ve ever been out with an injury.
“Prior to this, the worst injury I had had was an ankle problem that kept me out for about three or four weeks earlier this season.
“It’s been a long process, but hopefully I am coming to the end of it now.
“I’ve started light training this week and hopefully I can kick on again next week and then I won’t be far away.
“I’m desperate to get back playing again.
“I’ve been watching the boys over Christmas and into the new year but of course it has been frustrating not being involved.
“It’s just a case of getting my head down and doing everything I can to get back as quickly as possible.”
Turner spent four weeks in a knee brace after hitting the woodwork following a goal-line clearance against the Toffees despite being able to finish the game.
After the injury was allowed to heal naturally, he has spent the last seven weeks regaining the strength in his leg and is on target to meet the specialist’s lay-off estimate.
“I thought it was okay, but after the game it swelled up and when I had a scan the next day it was not good news,” he said.
“I had to wear a brace for four weeks and it was only when that came off - about seven weeks ago - that the rehabilitation could start for real.
“The brace keeps your leg in a straight position and that means you lose quite a lot of muscle on the thigh. I had to build the thigh back up and then get my general fitness back.
“When I first got injured, I was told I would be out for 10-12 weeks and I think it has been 11 weeks now.”
Turner hopes to be back in time to maintain Sunderland’s Europa League challenge despite the Black Cats losing their place in the top six to Liverpool following Saturday’s defeat at Stoke.
“We all want to finish in that top 10, but we’re not taking anything for granted,” said Turner.
“We’ve spent quite a while in sixth place, but we have dropped down to seventh now and there are some teams behind us who are also snapping at our heels.
“It’s going to be a tough finish, but I’m sure that if we keep on playing the way we have been doing, we will be fine.”