For Celtic and David Turnbull, end of year awards must be a pretty unwelcome sight.
The only medals and accolades the Celtic squad would’ve been interested in were team efforts. Taking individual credit after a nightmare campaign can’t be the most fun. I always think of Lionel Messi sheepishly collecting his Golden Ball moments after Argentina lost the World Cup in 2014 [Bleacher Report].
Fine, the scale is smaller, but the point remains. It seems like an unneeded distraction at this stage. And while individual honours are a recognition of talent and hard work, it’ll feel subdued when David Turnbull picks up his rightful SFWA Young Player of the Year Award.
Because frankly, he ought to, and it’s not even really that close. Turnbull is duking it out with Nathan Patterson (5 appearances in the league this season [Transfermarkt]), Lewis Ferguson and Josh Doig. The latter two have had excellent seasons, particularly breakout star Doig. But… come on.
Turnbull has been far and away Celtic’s most promising player this season. It could’ve been between himself and Ismaila Soro, but the Ivorian hasn’t been able to garner minutes quite like Turnbull. The former Motherwell man has dug Celtic out of holes on multiple occasions this season.
Really, if there’s anyone who deserves a title amongst this Celtic squad, you could reasonably argue it’s him.
Celtic man David Turnbull has been head and shoulders above the rest
Not only has Turnbull established himself in a hitherto excellent Celtic midfield, he’s being talked about in relation to the Scotland squad.
In terms of sheer data, you can make the case for Turnbull above the others. For example, his 8 goals and 6 assists in all competitions [WhoScored?]. His impact on the attacking side of the game, with more key passes per 90 than Lionel Messi. Turnbull’s passing accuracy, his clinical shooting, his threat from set pieces.
These are all things you can quantify, but his overall impact has been considerable.
Working in tandem with Ryan Christie yielded some of Turnbull’s best play. The heavily-criticised Scotland star has been the subject of derision this season, but the two have actually worked quite well together. Combined, they’ve made 19 assists, and scored 13 [Transfermarkt]. As a duo, they’re adept at unlocking stubborn defences, and when the Bhoys have been on song, it’s largely due to the impact of our attacking midfielders.
In an ideal world, Christie would find his colleague more often rather than shooting, and those numbers would be far higher. Turnbull, though, likes a shot from outside the box himself. 1.4 from his 2.2 shots per 90 in the Premiership for Celtic have been from range, and he’s often found the back of the net.
That’s quality and cutting edge that’s extremely expensive in the transfer market.
Grading the competition
We’ll leave Nathan Patterson, the token Rangers entry, out of consideration here. Patterson could be a fine right-back, and he’s already given a Celtic defender a torrid time, in Diego Laxalt. Still though: no. Maybe next year.
As for Lewis Ferguson? He’s a box-to-box midfielder with huge potential. In an Aberdeen side that’s struggled at points this term, Ferguson is a combative, competent tackler who also provides a scoring threat. He’s a good player, but he still concedes far too many fouls and his sub-80% pass accuracy isn’t good for his position [WhoScored?].
Josh Doig is another strong candidate. The breakout star of a potentially excellent Hibs team, Doig has marshalled the left flank and kept club hero Lewis Stevenson on the bench. At just 18, he’s yet another talented Scottish left-back, and his time will surely come. It’s also funny that he spent time on loan at Queen’s Park.
However, from a defensive point of view, he doesn’t read the game well enough yet, making less than one interception per 90 [WhoScored?]. Hibs concede far too often from open play, and the understandable defensive naïveté from Doig has been an issue.
David Turnbull has transcended this list. As good as Ferguson and Doig have been, there’s just no comparison. In terms of making their team noticeably better, there is a clear difference between Celtic pre-Turnbull and Celtic with Turnbull. He’s a game-changer in midfield.
Surely, then, he’ll need to be rewarded. Admittedly, it’ll have that nervous vibe that Messi displayed in 2014, and it won’t mean much to him long-term. But if anyone from this sorry Celtic season deserves positive recognition, it’s the ex-Motherwell man.