AS the crowd made their way in from the cold and the Guildhall began to fill, there was a problem backstage.

The man everyone had come to see was in a pretty bad way.

Frank Turner was suffering from flu and his voice was all but gone with just a few hours to spare before he was scheduled to take to the stage.

But there was no way Turner, who had grown up just a few miles down the road in Winchester, was going to cancel.

Along with his band the Sleeping Souls, the former Million Dead frontman picked up his guitar and performed his brand of energetic folk rock in typically wholehearted fashion.

His homecoming may have passed by in a feverish blur, but he did not disappoint.

“I was pretty sick and my voice was basically gone,”

Turner says of his last visit to the south coast. “But I didn't want to pull the show, not least because I’d always wanted to headline at the Guildhall and I used to go there as a kid.

“So we tuned our guitars and went ahead. It was pretty miserable for me but the crowd were amazing.”

A lot has happened since that icy December evening in 2010.

Turner released his fourth solo album England Keep My Bones six months later, and sold out Wembley Arena before performing at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in a hectic 2012.

After seven years of almost non-stop touring and countless small gigs, the singer-songwriter has taken his place as one of the nation’s favourite live performers.

But as the most eventful 12 months of his career come to an end, Turner is still stunned by his sudden rise from cult hero to arena conquering intruder.

“It’s been a pretty crazy year for me,” he explains. “The Wembley thing was amazing, surreal and overwhelming but something I knew was coming.

“The Olympics was more of a surprise for me and definitely saw me further out of my comfort zone, but it was great to do.

“I spend, and have spent for many years now, most of my time expecting the roof to come falling in and being pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t.”

Turner could be forgiven for putting his feet up and enjoying his success, but he’ll be hitting the road again before the end of the year.

Earlier this month he embarked on his latest UK tour, which includes 29 shows and stretches over six weeks.

While it’s textbook Turner, it’s also a statement of intent from the 30-year-old.

“After the Wembley show, there were some people who were nervous that I was going to retreat into only doing those kinds of shows – huge and in the big cities. I wanted to let people know that that’s not my intention at all,” he says.

Touring “I intend to keep on touring this country as much as I can.

It's the longest UK tour I’ve done in years and I’m actually pretty excited about that.”

And as one year draws to a close, plans for the next start to take shape. European dates are already in the diary, his latest album is done and ready for release in early 2013, and there’s no sign Turner is prepared to slow down just yet.

Asked how about his plans for the next 12 months are shaping up, the message is simple: “New album and then a ton of touring; standard!”

Frank Turner plays the Southampton Guildhall tonight and will be supported by Jim Lockey & The Solemn Sun and Tim Barry. A benefit gig for The Joiners, to be staged on December 28 sold out in 90 seconds.