Tuncay up for challenge
Tuncay Sanli will walk on to European football's big stage having negotiated one of the biggest hurdles of his career.
Last Updated: 27/05/08 12:22pm
Tuncay Sanli will walk on to European football's big stage this summer having successfully negotiated one of the biggest hurdles of his career to date.
The Turkey striker sparked a stunned response in his home country when he decided to leave Fenerbahce and head for the Premier League.
In doing so, he took on a challenge which came with no guarantee of success, but one he simply could not resist.
A little less than 12 months on, he is preparing to help his country reassert themselves on the international front having established himself at Middlesbrough.
The transition was not one which came easily, and it took time for Tuncay to acclimatise not only to a different type of football, but a different country and a different culture.
However, manager Gareth Southgate, who was delighted to have secured the out-of-contract Sakarya-born player on a free transfer, had few doubts that he would eventually get there.
Southgate said: "Like all players coming from abroad and adapting to a different league, it took three months or so for him to adjust.
"But he is a fit boy, his work-rate for the team is outstanding and he is a pleasure to work with.
"He has an enthusiasm for the game and an enjoyment of life. He always comes in with a smile on his face, and it is great to work with players like that because they give you energy."
What Tuncay has also given Boro is the invention and goal threat which made his name in Turkey.
A man who arrived on Teesside boasting a Champions League hat-trick against Manchester United in December 2004 did so with Southgate facing the task of rebuilding his front line.
His versatility saw him play in a variety of positions and it was little surprise that he found the going tough to begin with.
Indeed, it took him until December to register his first goal in his 14th appearance, a late equaliser at Reading.
Eight days later, his strike ultimately clinched a famous 2-1 win over Arsenal in what was the Gunners' first domestic defeat of the campaign.
He was to score twice more to take his tally to four in six games by the turn of the year, to fully justify Southgate's faith in him.
The former England defender said: "He was the King of Fenerbahce and to come here and not hit the ground straight away scoring, it was a knock-back for him.
"But the truth is that we have been delighted with him and I am sure he will be a big success over here.
"He is a smashing character and a great professional."
During his early days in England, there was speculation back in Turkey that he had not settled and that a swift move back to his native country could be on the cards.
Having sought assurances to the contrary from the players, Southgate delivered a withering response, and Tuncay's response since has been exemplary during what has been a difficult season for his new club.
He said: "I like living in England. Everything is going just fine.
"Everyone keeps asking me whether I miss Turkey or not, but my family came to live with me, so I am happy in England.
"I want to keep playing here for as long as possible."
But for now, the focus turns to Tuncay's national side, for whom he appeared in 11 of the 12 Euro 2008 qualifying games.
He scored in victories over Hungary, Moldova and Greece as Fatih Terim's men got their campaign off to a four-game winning start, although a return of just one point from the next nine and a subsequent home defeat by Greece left them facing a tense finish.
But a 2-1 win in Norway sent them into the final game at home to Bosnia Herzegovina knowing another victory would secure their passage in second place in Group C, and Nihat Kahveci's lone strike booked their trip to Austria and Switzerland.
Now the stage is set for the former King of Fenerbahce to re-establish his regal credentials back at home.