How Chris Sutton found the time to write his Daily Record column given his baiting of theRangers has been incessant this week I don’t know, but the former Celtic striker managed to fit it into his busy schedule, and he’s used it to run the eye over Celtic’s midfield options ahead of next season.
And it appears the big man feels the Celtic’s 20/21 player of the year David Turnbull is the odd man out, as far as Sutton is concerned, when it comes to grabbing a starting berth for the Hoops’ next campaign. Harsh? Well, here are Chris Sutton’s thoughts on the matter.
“The Scotland international played a huge part in the first-half of last term when the likes of O’Riley and Hatate were at other clubs. He carried a burden and delivered. Turnbull paid the price for a heavy schedule when suffering injury in the Premier Sports Cup Final and that allowed O’Riley and Hatate to jump above him in the pecking order when he was working his way through his rehabilitation.
“Turnbull scored against Motherwell last weekend to offer a reminder of what he can do and, of course, Postecoglou needs a big squad to cope with the demands of another full fixture lost including Champions League next season.
“McGregor starts. Full stop. Every game, if he is fit. That leaves two midfield places up for grabs in the manager’s current system and, to my eye, they are owned at this minute by O’Riley and Hatate and that is even before the market opens. I have little doubt that Postecoglou will go into this window with another midfielder on his radar. In fact, I’m almost sure of it.’
Chris Sutton it must be said makes a fair argument and it’s balanced as ever, but David Turnbull is a player who keeps proving people wrong. It’s easy to forget Turnbull is still only 22 years of age, and it may surprise people to look at his stats and instead consider this lad is likely to become a mainstay rather than a bit-part player at Celtic.
Already Turnbull has amassed 77 appearances for Celtic, scored 19 goals and assisted 16 more. And that’s impressive considering how long it took Neil Lennon to drop the player into his Celtic team, and that he missed nigh on half last season after a hamstring tear against Hibs in the League Cup Final.
But even prior to joining Celtic, and considering he had a year out injured at Motherwell also, Turnbull made a further 46 appearances, scored 16 goals and assisted another seven, before belatedly signing on at Celtic. How many 22-year-olds have that sort of experience and consistent record behind them?
Now Turnbull may stroll around the park looking like his Mum woke him up early, after playing Fortnite until 3am in his darkened bedroom, but his figures tell a different story.
Turnbull could also be criticised at times for taking too many touches, not being fluent on the half turn, and perhaps lacking in a willingness to track back. And whilst all of these are likely prerequisites for Ange Postecoglou’s system, it hasn’t stopped Postecoglou believing he has a player he can work with in David Turnbull, and his nigh on consistent selection status in the squad wasn’t solely down to a lack of alternatives available to the manager at the time, it was also down to the fact the manager likely recognises David Turnbull may not be the finished article, but he’s got as much to work with as he has to work on.
Since signing at Celtic Turnbull has been a player who has also shown versatility. So far, he’s played as a central midfielder, an attacking midfielder, on both the right and left side of midfield, as well as at centre forward, and when he was at Motherwell, believe it or not he even played briefly as a defensive midfielder.
Now, attacking midfield may well be his best position, but his versatility at both Celtic and Motherwell – alongside four caps for Scotland – shows managers believe Turnbull has a football brain, and as such can fill in as and when required in positions perhaps some would view as outside his comfort zone.
The player has also shown a real strength of character to overcome tough periods out with injury and has shown a real dedication in rehab to get back to his best at every turn. If players like Reo Hatate, Matt O’Reilly think they have first team shirts for next season – and you can bet they think no such thing – you can be certain David Turnbull will back himself and welcome the chase, after all he’s come back from far tougher times than shifting someone from the Celtic team.
At the start of last season, I couldn’t see how David Turnbull could fit into Ange Postecoglou’s system, yet by the time he left Hampden with that hamstring injury I was a convert. He had been exceptional as well as a near ever-present in that Celtic team, and he was improving with every passing game.
Whilst Reo Hatate and Matt O’Reilly have both proven to be astute purchases, neither of them are the finished article themselves, after all both have shown flashes of class and potential, yet both have also shown the drop offs in performances you’d expect from young players, in much the same way as Turnbull had.
As such with a pre-season on the horizon David Turnbull will fancy his chances of staking a claim to a starting spot in Ange Postecoglou’s team just as much as Reo Hatate and Matt O’Reilly will, and he has proven in the past that when the opportunity knocks David Turnbull can grasp his opportunity and perform just as consistently, if not even more so, than his competition.
You can fully understand Chris Sutton’s rationale when he places David Turnbull further down the midfield pecking order at Celtic, but for all Turnbull may look like he’s sleep deprived at times, that hides a real midfield talent emerging, and one who has more than his fair share of adversity to overcome already. Writing him off in anyway is likely to simply inspire David Turnbull, and you can be certain he’ll go about proving just that next season.
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