New Boy, Tom Flanagan, has been explaining his reasons for coming to Sunderland and what he can offer the club. Flanagan said: "As soon as I knew of the interest I pursued it because the stature of the club speaks for itself no matter what league they are in. I've got three friends from nursery, all three were born exactly the same place as me and all three are Sunderland fans, avid Sunderland fans. They go to all the away games in London, try to come up as much as they can. That's the reach of the football club - I'm from London originally and I went to school with three crazy Sunderland fans. I don't have a favourite position, I'm happy to play anywhere across a back four or a back three. I'm quite relaxed on the ball, not one to take risks, I'm very quick, read the game well and I'm a good leader - I'll talk to people, shout at people, listen. I'm just looking forward to it and I hope people will look forward to playing with me because I'm certainly looking forward to playing with some of the players. I just can't wait for that first game at the Stadium of Light.”
He's also hoping that his experience and success in League One can help him succeed. “I know the league. I've played a lot in the league, I know what it takes and it takes consistency," he added. "It's not like the Championship where a point may take you up the league, you need to keep the three points rolling. There's some tough away games. When I found out about the interest from the club I looked at the fixtures, purely out of excitement and we've got some travelling to do but if we can manage that right it will really stand us in good stead."
Another SAFC new kid on the block, and scorer of 90 yard screamers, Alim Ozturk has spoken at length about his move to Wearside and how it has mirrored the time he signed for Hearts: “When I went to Hearts, they were in the same position as Sunderland are now, looking to get back on track after relegation," explained Ozturk. "I got the same feelings when I went to Sunderland as I got when I first went into Hearts. There’s a new chairman and a new manager and I feel like the club is ready to turn the corner. Jack Ross is a sensible guy and wouldn’t have taken this job if he didn’t think the club was ready to move in the right direction. No club wants to get relegated but we have seen before where big clubs get relegated and they come back stronger. It can give you a chance to rebuild and do new things. I hope we can do the same at Sunderland as we did at Hearts.”
The Turkish under 21 international reckons he was set to move back to his native country but when the opportunity to join Jack Ross' revolution at Sunderland came about he couldn't refuse: “My period at Hearts was really good, and I wanted to experience British football again, playing in full stadiums with passionate supporters. My initial intention was to stay in Turkey for next season but if I could find a good club, I was open to moving back to the UK. It was only a few weeks ago the opportunity first came up to go to Sunderland, and after we started talking, it was all done really quickly. It was a really easy decision.
Alim is familiar with the style of football the Jack Ross plays having worked with the Scot while at Tynecastle and he thinks the experience he has gained throughout his career will land him in good stead for the upcoming League One campaign: "I had a good relationship with Jack at Hearts, so that was important but the main thing is that the club is amazing. I saw the training ground and everything – the stadium is amazing and the facilities are really good. I’m really happy. When I went to Hearts, I was only 21 so I was really young. It is really important for a footballer to play regularly and I feel the experience I have had of playing regularly at Hearts and also in Turkey has made me a much better player. I’ve played in Holland, Scotland and Turkey already, and every country has its own style, so I’ve learned lots of different ways of playing. I am used to the physicality of British football, which should help me, but in League One, they play more games than in Scotland. That is something I feel good about though. I’ve signed for two years so if everything goes well and we get promoted to the Championship, who knows what can happen after that.”
Meanwhile, Ethan Robson, who is excepted to be involved a lot more this coming season can’t wait to get stuck into some hard work. “I’m really happy to be back and it’s great to see the lads again and meet the new manager,” said Robson. “We’ve had some time off but, personally, I think it’s dragged a bit, so I’m buzzing to get started and be back playing football again. Everybody knows what happened last season, but this feels like a fresh start for everyone associated with the club. We have a new owner and a new manager, so everyone is really positive about what we can achieve during the new season. The trip to Portugal is a good chance to knuckle down, and it’s a good opportunity to get to know the new players and staff and help them settle in. It’s also a chance to impress the new manager, but I’ve worked during the off-season so I’m feeling fit and I’m ready to go.”
Finally, Steward Donald reckons we've turned down a number of offers for World Cup star Wahbi Khazri. On the back of a match winning performance, that helped Tunisia to their first win at a World Cup tournament in 40 years, the SAFC owner revealed that there's a been a few bids for the 27 year old. He said: "We haven’t accepted any offers on Khazri. Turned a few down though!!" simple as that really.
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