Turner’s Norwich career is a triumph over adversity

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Pete Norton/Getty ImagesAfter a rocky start, Michael Turner has flourished at Norwich City.

Michael Turner's Norwich City renaissance is a tale to stir the soul.

Turner returns to Sunderland this weekend in the Premier League for the first time since leaving the north-east to link up with Canaries' boss Chris Hughton in the summer.

The 29-year-old must surely have suffered periods of deep introspection during the early days wondering why he ever opted to leave Wearside. Not to put too fine a point on it, Turner endured one of the most miserable starts to a Norwich career witnessed in recent times. The big, honest, tough centre back was unfairly bracketed with the likes of Michael Theoklitos -- the Australian keeper who conceded seven goals on his Norwich debut in a humiliating opening day League One defeat that effectively signalled the end of Bryan Gunn's tenure and the start of Paul Lambert's revolution. Theoklitos was collateral damage. The current Brisbane Roar keeper never played for Norwich again at senior level.

Turner's Premier League bow for the Canaries on the opening day this time around began in similarly inauspicious circumstances. City were humbled 5-0 at Fulham and Turner's lacklustre display alongside many of his colleagues seemed to encapsulate all that went wrong down by the Thames. A blip turned into real cause for concern when Luis Suarez led Turner in a merry dance in his first Premier League game at Carrow Road. Suarez has since inflicted plenty of damage on opposing defences in a terrific personal campaign, but after Turner's troubles at Fulham it was fresh evidence of a signing that left more questions than answers.

Hughton opted to take the centre back out of the firing line before Turner returned for the season-affirming Premier League win over Arsenal in late October. The defender's late glancing header then rescued a point at Aston Villa the following weekend in a game laced with intriguing subplots given it was Norwich's first reunion with ex-boss Lambert. Turner's brilliant header triggered fantastic scenes of celebration among the travelling support that were matched by the euphoria around Hughton in the away technical area. Turner's reactions told a compelling story -- a cupped hand to ear gesture as he raced towards the away fans as if to underline the point he had heard the voluminous criticism of his early performances and here was his emphatic response. He was going nowhere.

Turner had spoken honestly and openly prior to that trip to Villa Park about how he had fallen way below his own standards; his personal heartache after Fulham and disappointment at being dropped. He also knew the only way to win the doubters back was through his deeds on the pitch. Turner has recovered from testing beginnings to flourish alongside Sebastien Bassong at the heart of Norwich's defence. The former Black Cat is now an indispensable member of Hughton's starting lineup -- a statement that would have been frankly absurd in the opening months of the new season. It is a testament to his ability on the pitch and his resolute character.

Turner will be desperate to show Sunderland what they are missing at the Stadium of Light this Sunday. Those who gather behind Norwich's cause now know exactly what they have got.

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