David Turnbull's Scotland hopes rest solely on substantial Celtic improvement

By David Walton

October 11, 2021

David Turnbull watched another Scotland game from the sidelines on Saturday night, and as riveting as it was, you could forgive him for wondering why he wasn’t on the pitch.

Indeed, Steve Clarke went with a midfield trio of Callum McGregor, Billy Gilmour, and John McGinn. Wow. It’s fair to say it’s jam-packed with quality. The Celtic captain, Scotland’s next big thing, and the country’s talisman all in the same engine room. And it’s a midfield he clearly isn’t changing anytime soon.

There was a time several months ago when it was ridiculous to think Turnbull couldn’t get a game. He was one of Celtic’s best performers throughout the 2020/21 campaign and deserved more game-time at Euro 2020.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

He’s only made three appearances for Scotland in total. All of them have come in friendly matches. But in recent times, Turnbull can have no complaints about being left out of his nation’s starting XI.

Whilst McGregor, Gilmour, and McGinn are all thriving at their clubs, Turnbull has struggled this season. Sure, the stats read six goals and three assists in 18 games. Not bad, right? The truth is, these stats don’t paint the full picture when it comes to the player’s all-round performances.

Turnbull has lacked the drive he had last season when he broke into the Celtic squad. He isn’t making those advancing runs beyond the striker anymore. Meaning that all of his goals tend to be from range. Nothing wrong with that, but he isn’t making himself as much of a threat in the penalty box as he should.

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Not to mention he’s generally been ropey with his distribution of the ball when in possession. One of Turnbull’s greatest attributes last season was his passing range. Where has that gone this season? The former Motherwell man has lost much of what made him such a threat, with too many sloppy passes on show.

David Turnbull won’t break into Scotland team with ropey Celtic displays

Turnbull is being called up regularly by Clarke. That’s a big boost for him. That shows the Scotland manager rates him as a player and sees a space for him amongst the first-team squad. But at 22, he’s at the stage where it’s time to start making an input in the starting XI.

But he’ll only be given the chance to do that if he starts turning it on for Celtic. If you take Turnbull’s form and all-round threat of last season into this term, you can bet Clarke would be taking more chances on him.

There’s a reason the Scotland manager didn’t turn to him when we were 2-1 down to Israel. There’s a reason he wasn’t selected for a key midfield spot in Austria. Turnbull simply isn’t delivering enough for Celtic at the minute to command that kind of opportunity.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Sure, is he capable? It’s a silly question. He’s naturally as talented as anyone else in that Scotland squad. But his form has been poor throughout the campaign so far. And in a World Cup qualifying year, you would expect him to be using his platform to greater effect.

Celtic have a big month coming up, and it’s fair to say it’s a huge one for Turnbull too. If he continues his inconsistent displays in the middle of the park, Clarke won’t touch him. Especially when his golden midfield trio already cementing themselves in the team.

As Scotland get closer to World Cup qualification, Turnbull will want to be a big part of it for when the competition actually comes around next year. If he’s to do that, it’s time for him to start seriously turning up the quality levels at Celtic.

In other news, The 3 class injury returns Celtic are due post-international break