Celtic midfielder David Turnbull should be in the Scotland team.
We expected the ex-Motherwell man to be good. However, after the drama of his near-miss signing, then finally getting him, he’s exceeded any realistic expectations. Instantly, he’s looked like a mainstay. It’s becoming harder to remember him not playing for us.
Last night, he proved his value once again. Not since Stuart Armstrong has a midfielder looked so threatening and so comfortable. We’ve seen flashes from Ryan Christie, especially in big games. But in terms of impact, Turnbull has won us matches repeatedly, and is an automatic starter for Celtic.
Furthermore, he should be an automatic starter for Scotland. He only has a handful of youth caps [Transfermarkt], but surely that’s going to change soon.
If Steve Clarke wants a midfield with creative dynamism, as well as tough tackling, Turnbull is a good fit for any combination. Here’s how he could slot into the national team’s first XI.
Celtic men David Turnbull and Callum McGregor with John McGinn
Call us biased, sure, but this is a Celtic website. If you were expecting us to suggest that Ryan Jack should lead the Tartan Army to glory, try elsewhere.
Turnbull has already proven his qualities working alongside Callum McGregor. In some respects, the ex-Motherwell man has freed up Callum McGregor. CalMac has become more of a box-to-box creative force in a diamond midfield. Slightly ahead of either Brown or Soro, the mainstay has impressed, but remains underrated.
If you planted McGregor ever so slightly deeper, behind McGinn and Turnbull in a 4-3-3, the effect could be devastating. It’s all the sadder that this trio could’ve been Celtic’s midfield for a number of years. At least there’s an opportunity to enjoy them in a Scotland kit.
Imagine the sheer invention and creativity of this midfield. In games where Scotland are able to keep possession, Steve Clarke might be able to unshackle his team a little. The wingers and full-backs will be given more license to roam, with CalMac, McGinn and Turnbull recycling and retaining the ball in the middle.
It’d be a gift for our attacking players, and there’s endless energy to cover in defence. It’s worth a go.
Turnbull, McTominay/Jack, Christie
Here’s another combination with two Celtic players. Again, no apologies.
Ryan Christie looks like a different player for Scotland. I don’t buy that it’s an effort thing, I think it’s more tactical. Christie is often played as an out-and-out number 10 by Steve Clarke. That’s because it’s Ryan Christie’s natural position.
With a pure DM behind Turnbull and Christie, as opposed to the more mobile McGregor, the more attacking duo could be joint 10s, swapping positions in attacking movements. Either Manchester United man Scott McTominay, or begrudgingly, Ryan Jack, would be ideal fodder with two energetic creative players in the midfield.
Admittedly, there are issues here; leaving out John McGinn seems outrageous, and Scotland would have more of a struggle keeping possession. Turnbull and Christie can play it short, but they also like exploratory through passes and lofted balls to strikers. They won’t always work out.
Scotland to adopt the diamond?
Alternatively, Turnbull works well in a 4-4-2 diamond. Given the players at Clarke’s disposal, it might not be the worst idea in the world.
There’s room for tinkering here; Ryan Christie could be the “second striker” in a front two, leaving more of a 4-4-1-1 shape, or a 4-5-1 off the ball. The latter suits Clarke’s defensive instincts, and it also means there’s a way to get McGinn and Turnbull playing together.
It also provides a role for Callum McGregor. So; McTominay/Jack, CalMac, Turnbull, McGinn. That’s an eye-watering selection of players. It calls to mind the days of Burley and Collins with Gary McAllister, from the sepia-tinged days when we last qualified for a major tournament.
As you can see, there are options here. Steve Clarke should feature Turnbull in all of them. Frankly, he’d be remiss to ignore the on-form Scottish midfielder ahead of the biggest moment for Scottish men’s football in a generation.
Stevie, Stevie, call him up.