Tide is Turning for Turnbull as his Time at Celtic Nears

David Turnbull be must the player who came closest to playing for Celtic without actually doing so, he even signing a contract with the Hoops though it was subject to a medical.

Last summer’s long drawn out transfer finally looked to being concluded before a Celtic medical shone a light on an underlying and undiagnosed knee injury.

Despite being photographed wearing the Hoops, sitting beside manager Neil Lennon and ready to do his welcome to Celtic interview for the club’s TV channel, the deal collapsed at the last minute upon the news Turnbull would require surgery and a lengthy period of rehabilitation.

It has been widely reported Celtic in fact offered to sign Turnbull on loan, take care of the operation and recovery and re-negotiate the previously agreed £3million transfer as and when young Turnbull had made a full recovery. Motherwell apparently refused this offer.

As such David Turnbull’s surgery and recuperation has been handled by his club and you’d assume Celtic have been keeping a close eye on developments on this one.

David Turnbull has made good progress and the surgery has gone well. The player has been gradually reintegrated into first team football and Motherwell have taken a slowly, slowly approach to their prize assets rehabilitation.

Motherwell Chief executive Alan Burrows has been discussing the latest development in Turnbull’s post operation medical care.

The outbreak of Covid-19 and subsequent shutdown of Scottish football for the foreseeable future has given an earlier than expected opportunity for a further operation on Turnbull’s knee. There have been no complications to concern club or player. This straightforward procedure is to remove two metal pins that were inserted in Turnbull’s knee as part of the original operation. The shutdown has meant this can now be concluded early rather than wait to the close season.

Burrows said, as reported by Daily Record: “David had two steel pins inserted when he had knee surgery last year. It was always going to require a minor operation to take them out.

“With no games scheduled for the foreseeable future, he’s gone under the knife now. It will take him three or four weeks to recover.”

Turnbull made his return to the Motherwell first team as a second half substitute at home to St Mirren on 25 February 2020. In March, Turnbull signed a contract extension, with Motherwell until 2022. A deal that was signed with a view to giving both security to Turnbull and protecting Motherwell’s interests at the same time. From the players point of view it was a commendable thing to do.

Turnbull gave a wonderfully open and honest assessment of that infamous transfer saga when he spoke to Scottish Sun a couple of weeks ago. It was real insight into the rollercoaster of an emotional ride the player went through. It is well worth taking the time to read if you haven’t already.

“It was a mental season – I loved every minute of it. I just wish I could go back and do it all again. After the season has finished I knew there was interest, but it was just rumours.

“I went on holiday with a few boys from the team and then when I was over there I started hearing a few bits and bobs about Celtic, how they were going to come in with a bid. When I was away on holiday there were Celtic fans coming up to me every night, it was a bit too much really.

“I didn’t fancy it and came home a few days early. That’s when everything started kicking off. It went on for a few weeks, that.

“Norwich came in out of the blue as well, I went to the Norwich training ground on the Thursday. My heart was kind of set on Celtic from the start, because they’d been in for so long.

“Then I was talking to Stuart Webber from Norwich and he was really good, he was promoting what they’d done with the academy, what they’d done with the first team. He was telling me everything, it was really good. He was making my head turn a little, my head was all over the place.

“Me and Liam had agreed that we were choosing that day whether it was going to be Norwich or Celtic. We were sat in an office, just me and him, and Celtic came back with another offer. It something I couldn’t turn down, really.

“I drove in with my mum and dad, we went in the back door. I had to sign subject to a medical. I did a few photos about the stadium with the Celtic kit on.

“I don’t think there were any spaces in Edinburgh available for any scans and the scanner at the hospital was broken so I had to go down to Manchester that day.

“I came back up that night for a medical and texted Neil Lennon. He said: ‘come in and do some training tomorrow’. Just some light stuff, get me moving.

“My head was all over the place really but it was an opportunity you can’t really turn down, especially as a young player. So I went in to Lennoxtown on the Saturday. Got my new boots, new running trainers, looking forward to training.

“I went in, had a meeting with Lennon, spoke to the physio after my medical. He said that something had come up on my left knee but he didn’t think it would be much to worry about. But obviously it was in the end.

“That was the Saturday, on the Sunday got a phone call that I had to go to Belgium on the Monday to see a specialist on my left knee. My dad was alright but I was trying to get my mum not to panic about it, and I’m obviously panicking about trying to keep her calm.

“Monday morning, I think it was about 6 in the morning, I got to the airport and met the Celtic physio. I found out just before the flight to Brussels that actually I was going to need an operation. He told me, because he’d heard from the specialist.

“That was obviously gutting, that was the first time I heard. He just kind of explained everything, showed me the scans compared to my other knee and what was up. I was obviously gutted, it was hard to take in. It was just crazy, really.

“I’ve never had any injuries in my life really, no long-term injuries. I’ve trained every day, not missed a day’s training last season. Nothing was hurting either, so it was obviously a shock.

“Motherwell wanted a second opinion from another specialist, so I went down to London and saw Andy Williams, the surgeon who operated on me. He was just saying the same stuff really that Peter Verdonk, the boy in Belgium, was saying.

“That I would need to get an operation, and just try and get it as soon as (possible) after that. The surgeons told me that I could play on for another five or 10 years and it couldn’t hurt me, but I could go into training and it could go as soon as that. Just snap off really.

“What was wrong with me, they said it could happen whenever and it could end my career. That was really hard to take obviously, and once I heard that I knew I had to get the operation. I was obviously gutted, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Getting the operation.

“My agent was still working on it, and I’m sure Motherwell and Celtic were still working on it to try and get something sorted. It was just really down to them, so it was a waiting game.

“I found out that I had to get an operation and the deal was kind of done. It wasn’t a great feeling to be honest. It was a hard one to take. It was tough to get my head round, the first few weeks were tough. I didn’t want to speak to many people.”

It is superb news for Turnbull to have come through a period of recuperation so well. Following this operation to remove the pins from his knee he should be ready to go again in three to four weeks.

As much as Turnbull is very much Motherwell’s player and indeed has signed that new contract, it is clear from what he has to say that the lad’s heart was set on joining Celtic. It may well be he still can.

You can be sure Neil Lennon who clearly coveted the player prior to his injury, will be keeping a very close eye on how Turnbull’s rehabilitation concludes. If the player is back up to speed then Lennon may well come back in for the player during the summer transfer window.

As much as everything surrounding football is very much on hold at present, including transfers, as and when things reach a level of normality once again it could be Celtic will reignite their interest in David Turnbull.

You need mental strength allied to footballing ability to be a first team regular at Celtic. It strikes me David Turnbull has both those attributes in abundance.

Niall J

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About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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