"Crazy"; Celtic POTY David Turnbull details his unusual rise to Scotland duty

By Euan Davidson

June 9, 2021

What an odd few years it’s been for Celtic and Scotland man David Turnbull.

Not even born the last time Scotland’s mens team featured in an international tournament, it was nearly all over before it truly began for the Wishaw-born midfielder. Having starred for Motherwell, after making his breakthrough in the 18-19 season, Turnbull quickly attracted interest from Celtic.

The Motherwell youngster was keen on the move. In fact, it all looked done and dusted, until a routine physical showed a need for “immediate preventative” knee surgery [BBC]. Nobody was more surprised by that than Turnbull himself, who hadn’t shown any symptoms of a potential injury issue.

Speaking to the BBC, Turnbull said:

“There were times back when everything went through my head.

“Will I get back playing? Will I get back to my best?

“It’s been a crazy year or two since then. [Being picked for Euro 2020] probably tops it all off.”

David Turnbull was solid against Holland / (Photo by Joaquin Corchero / Europa Press Sports via Getty Images)

“My mum gave me a cuddle”; Celtic and Scotland man reveals his reaction to massive call-up

Like everything so far in Turnbull’s career, it’s not exactly been smooth sailing getting into the Scotland team. After eventually signing for Celtic, a year after schedule, he’s been dynamite. Deservedly the Bhoys’ Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year for 20-21, his form would’ve normally seen the ex-Motherwell man as a sure-fire pick for Scotland.

Except, these aren’t necessarily “normal” times in Scottish football. The national team is full of fantastic midfield talents. Chelsea and Manchester United stars Billy Gilmour and Scott McTominay aren’t necessarily guaranteed starters. John McGinn, Stuart Armstrong, Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie… the list goes on.

So, actually getting the call-up wasn’t an inevitability. After injuries to Kenny MacLean and Ryan Jack, things looked slightly more promising. However, Ryan Gauld was impressing in Portugal, too. So when the phone rang and it was Steve Clarke on the other end, Turnbull and his family were beside themselves.

Turnbull said [BBC]:

“I had my fingers crossed for it.

“But obviously you need to take into consideration the players you’re up against.

“All my family were sitting in the living room when I got the text. I was absolutely delighted and so were they. My mum gave me a big cuddle and a kiss. My brother and my dad were a bit reserved, they tried to keep calm and I was the same.”

Scotland manager Steve Clarke / (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Turnbull: the creative spark that could be vital for Clarke

Of course, being called up and actually making the pitch in a major tournament are two very different concepts. Yes, Turnbull started against the Netherlands, and played well, but he’s by no means an automatic selection. As we’ve covered, that midfield is stacked.

However, international matches, especially at big tournaments, are about entire squads. Unlike club football, when a regular XI (hopefully) feature for most outings, the Euros are a very different animal. And so, that should provide some comfort to David Turnbull.

International managers are more likely, theoretically, to make dramatic in-game changes. Think Davie Weir’s introduction against Norway in 1998, for example. Swift fixes to shape and team balance are often required on the bigger stages.

So, you can imagine the set-piece prowess and inventive passing of Turnbull being called upon at some point. Steve Clarke, ever the pragmatist, would have obsessed over his 26-man squad for a considerable length of time, and to use a well-worn cliché, there’s no room for passengers.

All in all, though, it’s great that Turnbull has gone from being worried about his livelihood to excellent for Celtic, and perhaps Scotland. A rare glimmer of light in a difficult period for us.

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