After a breakthrough first season as a Motherwell regular in 2018/19, missing almost the entirety of 2019/20 was a big blow for David Turnbull. It cost him a big move and another term of development due to a troublesome knee problem.
He managed a couple of appearances before the football shutdown and then had to have another op to remove pins from his knee. Despite all of that at such a young age, still only 21, Turnbull has looked in good shape this term.
Stephen Robinson has started him in all four Well games so far, having an influence in all of them. He showed flashes of brilliance against Ross County and Dundee United before a first goal since 2019 against Livingston.
His excellent display away at Hibs during a 0-0 stalemate showed Turnbull’s just about back to where he was before his knee knock.
With how long he’d been out for, it was only natural to expect Turnbull to be slowly phased in. When fully fit and firing he’s comfortably Motherwell’s best player technically, able to do and spot things others in the Well side can’t.
Substitute appearances against St Mirren and Hearts came last term before football was put into cold storage. By the time the first game of the season away to Ross County rolled around, Turnbull hadn’t started a game of football in almost 15 months.
But even in that he started and finished 80 minutes. That was very good for someone who hadn’t had a competitive game for over a year and a similar amount of minutes were had against Dundee United.
Livingston was the first game he really started to control things, starting play from deep when he had to, scrapping alongside Allan Campbell in the middle and scoring too. He looked like a man growing in confidence and he said as much after the Livi game.
“I’d say I’m 100%,” said Turnbull. “The lockdown helped me as I had my second operation and I rested for four weeks straight. I didn’t have to do anything else and that helped me.
“I hope I can kick on and get more and help the team out. I’m feeling very fit. I came back fit after lockdown and got back up to speed. The gaffer has given me the chance in the first few games and I feel I am doing well, I just need to kick on.
“Probably because nobody was in or nobody was playing. I spoke to the gaffer and he said if you’re fit enough and good enough to train you’ll play. The first few weeks I was finding my sharpness, and now I’ve played the first few games, I feel brilliant.”
There were positives to build on going into the weekend’s game with Hibs and Turnbull strolled it in his best performance of the season to date. Both he and Campbell were terrific as Motherwell were unlucky not to take all three points during the 0-0 draw.
Whilst his midfield partner and Mark O’Hara did a lot of the dirty work, Turnbull dictated play. He had an 82% completed pass rate, 56 completed passes, five key passes and three shots.
It was a composed display and what’s more promising is that he played 90 minutes for the first time. It had a telling impact as the seemingly fit and able Turnbull was able to control the match in its entirety.
Motherwell’s best performance of the season and Turnbull’s occurring in the same game is no coincidence. Motherwell may have secured third largely without him, but the weekend proved what we already know – Robinson’s men improve tenfold when their young academy product is in midfield.
Against Hamilton this weekend, stats would suggest Turnbull will do even better than last week, as he is improving game by game. It’ll be a pleasing factor for Robinson as his men aim for a push in Europe and towards the league’s top end.