The Celtic talent you shouldn’t sleep on in 2022/23 by Josh McCafferty
It is fair to say Celtic’s first season under Ange Postecglou was a prosperous one.
Winning the league and league cup double was a cosmic achievement considering the scale of the rebuild that faced the Australian in his first year in charge.
In said annual, Postecoglou assembled a squad consisting of a plethora of young talents: newly signed Alexandro Bernabei is the first Argentine to play for Celtic meanwhile Reo Hatate and Matt O’Riley provide equanimity in midfield; 20 year old Liel Abada lit it up on the right hand side in his first year in Glasgow, registering 26 goal contributions in all competitions with exquisite showman Jota matching flair and poise with end product on the opposite flank; Cameron Carter-Vickers signed permanently alongside the Portuguese winger and is a rock at the back; the list is endless.
However one such player we’ve yet to mention is midfield technician David Turnbull. Forgetting Turnbull is acceptable when you consider he missed four months of the 2021/22 campaign through injury although in said season, he still managed to score ten goals and assist eight, putting testament to his quintessential abilities.
Turnbull was excellent not just last season, but in his first year at Celtic as well. He was a beacon of light in a dark, dark season in which the club failed to get themselves among the silverware.
At the beginning of said campaign, he joined from Motherwell in a deal worth around £2.7m (Transfermarkt).
Turnbull, though, would struggle to get minutes in his first few months in green and white however when he was given an opportunity in a Europa League dead rubber with Lille in December 2020, he grasped it with both hands.
The midfielder scored one and set up another in the 3-2 win over the eventual French champions in a man of the match display.
Turnbull was then given further chances following this and became a mainstay in the Celtic midfield throughout the rest of the 2020/21 season, scoring a total of nine goals and setting up eight, winning the club’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards in the process.
Then in the summer of 2021 after failing to get their hands on a fabled tenth league title in a row, Celtic faced a colossal rebuilding job.
As alluded to, Ange Postecoglou was the man to spearhead this overhaul and Turnbull was one of few players from Celtic’s 2020/21 team who was a regular in the one of the following season.
The now 23 year old established himself as a key clog in Ange Postecoglou’s team in the first half of the 2021/22 season, playing 90 minutes in all but two of Celtic’s opening 18 league games.
He scored five goals and set up four in this time which included a first career hat-trick in a 6-0 rout of St. Mirren in the third league game of the season.
Turnbull also disclosed his form on the European stage in the 2021/22 season. In ten Europa League appearances (including qualifiers), the Scot scored three goals and assisted as many.
We know he is a midfielder but in terms of specific positions, Turnbull took up the sort of box-to-box role in Celtic’s midfield trio in the most recent campaign.
Captain Callum McGregor would sit deep, anchoring the play meanwhile Tom Rogic was an advanced playmaker with Turnbull sandwiched in between the two as an eight who had the license to roam forward, create, assist and score goals.
However he was not just used as a midfielder, Turnbull even deputised at centre forward once towards the winter when clubs in Scotland operate around a packed schedule and the Celtic squad was in a threadbare state due to injuries to several key players.
Then just a week after this game in which he assisted the winner at home to his former club Motherwell, Turnbull had the chance to win just the second trophy of his career in the league cup final six days before Christmas. Celtic did eventually win the game by two goals to one thanks to a Kyogo Furuhashi masterclass in striking although rather unfortunately, Turnbull had to come off injured 27 minutes in, almost in tears as he done so.
It turned out the 23 year old had pulled his hamstring which eventually resulted in a four month injury lay off but in his absence, his teammates would go on a superb run of form, putting themselves in a great position to win the title.
As you may know, the Hoops managed to wrap up their tenth Scottish Premiership in 11 years with Turnbull making his return from the sidelines towards the end of the campaign.
His first start since injury came in the final game of the 2021/22 season at home to his ex-employers Motherwell. In all honesty, it couldn’t have gone any better for Turnbull as he scored the Bhoys’ second of the game in a 6-0 triumph and completed 62 minutes to end the campaign on a high and put him in good stead going into the new one.
His goal that day seen Turnbull wrong foot his former teammate Rickie Lamie with a slick fake-shot to then thoroughly power the ball into the bottom left corner with his laces:
This goal was not the only magnificent one he scored last season, though. Take a look at the Scot’s strike at Tannadice in December when he latched on to a sublime Callum McGregor pass over the top of the United defence to loop the ball over Benjamin Siegrist and meet it on the volley on the other side of the now-Celtic keeper to tap into an empty net from a yard out:
His goal of the season contender away to Motherwell (Turnbull returning against his old team is a running theme, as you’ve probably gathered) was another thing of beauty. Receiving the ball from Jota over 25 yards from goal, Turnbull took a touch and didn’t hesitate to put his foot through ball and release an utter pile-driver of an effort into the top right corner. Take a look at the swerve on this one:
It is clear to see that David Turnbull scores many goals of a high-calibre. Yes, hitting the back of the net from range is a palatial part of his game although as a player, Turnbull has numerous other positive traits.
He may not be the fastest player however ‘the Bull’ does possess the stamina and legs to last 90 minutes in a game, proven with the amount of time on the pitch he racked up in the 2021/22 season in spite of injury.
Standing at 6”0 tall, Turnbull is a physical presence in midfield and is not afraid to throw himself around. He gets involved defensively and tracks back to win the ball at times however this part of his game could do with some development. Nonetheless, it was perfectly summed up with his contribution to Liel Abada’s goal away at Ferencvaros in November where the midfielder atoned for a previous error to take the ball off his opponent and kickstart a typically swift Celtic attacking move:
Even as recently as this month, Turnbull disclosed his defensive qualities in Celtic’s second friendly of the 2022/23 season. He pressed Rapid Vienna’s Emmanuel Aiwu high up the pitch and expertly won the ball off the centre back to play a sublime pass to Kyogo Furuhashi in the box who finished with composure:
Creativity is another big part of David Turnbull’s game. Whether it be through his unerring set-piece ability or clever awareness to find teammates with a smart ball, the midfielder can get assists and manufacturer opportunities for his teammates. Here’s some of his best assists at Celtic so far:
As well as the goals he’s helped his teammates score, the fact that as of stats provider FotMob, Turnbull created a colossal 80 chances in the Scottish Premiership in the 2021/22 season, the most of any player in the Celtic team, backs up the notion he’s a serial creator.
As a player on the whole and in terms of play style, although he is nowhere near the level of the Belgian, I would go as far to liken David Turnbull to Kevin De Bruyne.
Just like the Man City midfielder, Turnbull is a fairly physical presence in the engine room who can equally create, assist, score goals and is deadly from set-plays.
Such qualities, however, have failed to see Turnbull breakthrough on an international level. Despite the fact he’s been a regular in Steve Clarke’s squads, the midfielder has started just once and made five caps in total. Trying to change this will most likely be one of his key aspirations going into the new campaign.
Despite a lack of international acclaim, it is a surprise that there has been no concrete interest in David Turnbull of late although this is in no way a bad thing for Celtic.
However as of now, the 23 year old is going into the final two years of his deal with the Scottish champions meaning next summer would be the final opportunity to rake in any significant profit for the player, something Celtic have specialised in doing in recent years.
Nonetheless, that is not to say Turnbull won’t a new contract with the Hoops. After all, he is quietly starring in a Celtic team who continually play a brand of football any player would like to partake in. Champions League group stage action is also on the cards for the Bhoys in the coming months and if the club re-establish themselves on the European stage, it would hugely advantageous in not just keeping their prized assets, but enticing new ones to Glasgow’s east end.
To round off (and as the title of this article suggests), you should keep a close eye on David Turnbull’s progress in 2022/23. With a goal and assist in his solitary pre-season appearance thus far, I believe the 23 year old could be set to lament himself among not just Celtic’s, but the elite midfielders of Scottish football in the forthcoming campaign.