SUNDERLAND continued the process of clearing the decks yesterday as they sold Michael Turner to Chris Hughton’s Norwich City.
The Black Cats agreed to the cut-price deal – believed to be around the £1.5million mark – and Turner was in East Anglia yesterday undergoing a medical ahead of the transfer.
Turner is the 17th player that Sunderland have allowed to leave since the end of the season, signifying a desire by Martin O’Neill to free up a portion of the wage bill to cater for new arrivals.
But the 28-year-old, who played the final 20 games of the season, is the highest-profile summer casualty of the
O’Neill era. Although Turner remained in contention during the final months of the campaign, the signing of Carlos Cuellar gives O’Neill options defensively – and his decision to persevere with Titus Bramble also means that the former Hull City man has been relegated to the fringes.
Steve Bruce was interested in taking Turner back to the Tigers, but Hughton’s decision to table an offer allows the defender the option of staying in the top flight, while also recouping some of the £4million that Sunderland paid for the centre-back.
O’Neill also has enough senior options at the back without Turner – and is understood to want to take a closer look at youngster Louis Laing and Ireland Under-21 defender Jon Egan.
Teenager Laing has long been earmarked for a big future with the Wearside club and has been capped for England at every level through to Under-19s. He spent the back end of last season on loan at Wycombe Wanderers.
He was part of the travelling Sunderland party to South Korea last week and O’Neill admits that all of the young guns who were involved with the Black Cats played their part and impressed.
“I’ve enjoyed watching the young players train and play and it was great to get the opportunity to do so,” he said.
“I’ve been with them for quite a few months now, since Christmas-time, and it was nice to be in that environment over in South Korea, particularly with them working with the first team.
“I always had it in my mind that the Peace Cup would be a chance to see some of the younger players and the players who didn’t get to play that much football last season and, in the event, it proved to be exactly that. I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen and in terms of them going on be Premier League players, I don’t see why not for many of them.
“I’ve always been under the belief that if you’re good enough, you’ll eventually come through if you’ve got the willpower and desire. And I don’t see why that should be any different with this young bunch of players.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland are lining up a friendly with Conference North side Histon on Monday.
Histon boss Dennis Greene said that O’Neill had agreed to bring a youthful side to Cambridge for the match. He said: “I’ve been speaking to Martin since last year about a friendly.
“He’s bringing a lot of the lads that went on tour with him.
“There were some young lads in that, but they’re proper players, so hopefully he’ll bring a good group with him.”