In the history of Celtic transfer deals the protracted nature of David Turnbull’s move from Motherwell takes some beating. Initially in the door and in the Hoops, his unveiling as a Celtic player was then delayed some 12 months following a knee injury highlighted in his medical in the summer of 2019. By August of the following year – and after an initial five appearances for the Steelmen following a long, hard recuperation process – Turnbull had proved the long lonely hours spent in rehab had resulted in a full recovery and Celtic made their move again.
It took a little time for Turnbull to convince Neil Lennon he was worth a starting shirt, but when he got his chance, the midfielder stood out as a bright spark in a long dark season. After signing a four-year deal, the much-anticipated debut finally came as a substitute in a 5-0 rout away to Ross County and a first start for Celtic following a fortnight later in a 2-0 away win at St Johnstone.
His first goal was the winner in a 3-2 UEFA Europa League win over Lille and he also scored in each of the last three SPFL games of that month. Turnbull finished with nine goals scored in his 35 games for the Hoops in his first season, as well as winning the fans player of the year.
After just under a year at the club Turnbull became a vital part of Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic revolution playing almost every minute in the first eleven until a League Cup final hamstring injury ruled him out until the tail end of last season.
Since then, Turnbull been less of a fixture in the Celtic side – instead used far more often as a rotating Number 8 – and appears at this juncture to be behind the likes of Aaron Mooy, Matt O’Riley and Reo Hatate in the attacking positions anchored by Callum McGregor.
In recent games Turnbull has returned to the side playing and scoring against both St Mirren and Morton and has certainly given Ange Postecoglou some food for thought when it comes to starting positions in the weeks ahead.
Yet forcing his way past his direct competition for a starting berth may be a tough ask, however you wouldn’t put it past Turnbull to force his way in. After all his strength of character and resilience has been confirmed not only by his recovery from that serious knee injury which scuppered his first chance of a move to Celtic, but also in his unwavering commitment to the cause when options to rotate in the first six months of Postecoglou’s reign were thin on the ground.
It now feels like David Turnbull is at a crossroads in his Celtic career, and with his contract due to expire in the summer of 2024, it is somewhat surprising an extension has yet to be agreed, whilst players such as Juranovic, Giakoumakis and Abada were all rumoured to have been offered fresh terms despite having far longer to run on their respective deals.
Of course, here may well be negotiations going on in the background, but at 23 years of age Turnbull is surely an asset Celtic would wish to tie down to a longer deal on improved terms even if only to protect the value of a player, who would with a lengthy contract, demand a substantial transfer fee.
There is another reason why an extension of Turnbull’s stay may also be prudent. Celtic’s cosmopolitan transfer incomings in recent times has seen an influx of players from across the globe, all with the belief these signings will slowly but surely build a Celtic side who can compete at a European level. Yet the need for homegrown players when it comes to Champions League squad requirements must be an important part of the club’s squad building process and with little to no Scottish signings in the twenty plus signings Celtic have made since Ange Postecoglou rebuilt this Celtic squad almost from scratch, the need to ensure those who are of a sufficient quality and qualify under UEFA’s requirements is a vital consideration.
As such a contract extension for David Turnbull must be on the agenda, after all his quality as a player and his resilience as an athlete all point to the best of David Turnbull’s career still lying ahead of him.
Of course, Turnbull himself, like any good player will know his own worth and will have his own career ambitions to consider. After all Turnbull probably should have forced himself onto further international recognition than his five caps to date, and perhaps a lack of regular gametime in recent times has impacted on his chances of impressing Steve Clarke.
Turnbull has also had to contend with press questions of late as to whether he would consider heading out on loan if game time didn’t materialise. In the absence of any rumours regarding a temporary switch, such questioning could be construed as being disrespectful to a player who was a regular selection prior to his Hampden hamstring injury, yet the lack of gametime for such a talented player likely encourages such conjecture.
Celtic could put all of that to bed with the offer of a new contract of course but it remains to be seen if such an offer would be forthcoming and whether David Turnbull himself would be willing to commit in the absence of regular first team starts.