Eddie Turnbull: Uncompromising footballer who enjoyed success with Hibernian as player and manager
Saturday 07 May 2011
It was not enough for Eddie Turnbull to be a member of the most famous forward line to grace Scottish football; he also became a pioneering, successful and at times irascible manager.
He was uncompromising, in his personality, in his ideals and in the standards of discipline he expected of his players, but that rigour was only to ensure that the ingenuity of his thinking, and the stylishness he sought, was not lost to extravagance.
Football offered Turnbull, or Ned, as he was known, the means to express himself, and his triumphs were the reward for a life-long commitment. Born in Carronshore, a small village near Falkirk in 1933, he was one of five children of James and Agnes Turnbull. He was talented enough to play for his school and district teams, then earned an apprenticeship at Carron Ironworks when he was 14 and began playing for Forth Rangers.
Four years later, he volunteered to join the Merchant Navy, and served on the Arctic convoys, where he came to understand the importance of a regimented lifestyle, but also of camaraderie and what might be achieved by a shared sense of purpose. Turnbull's bluntness and coarse turn of phrase – although never in front of a lady – was a legacy of these years.
Fit and determined on his discharge, he was signed by the Hibernian manager Willie McCartney on the evidence of one junior match, with Turnbull quickly moving through the ranks at Easter Road to take his place in the "Famous Five" forward line alongside Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly and Willie Ormond. Turnbull provided the leadership and industry of this remarkable group of players, but also a fearsome shot that was responsible for a great number of the 199 goals he scored in more than 400 games for Hibs.
With Turnbull at inside-left, the Easter Road side won the Scottish League title in 1948, 1951 and 1952,and he became the first player to score for a British side in the EuropeanCup, during a 4-0 win in West Germany over Rot-Weiss Essen in September 1955. Turnbull also playednine times for Scotland, although his international career was scuppered for several years after he responded with typically unstinting gruffness to criticism from a national selector while the two men were in the toilet at Hampden Park.
After moving into coaching with Hibs, then becoming manager of the amateur side Queen's Park, Turnbull was appointed by Aberdeen in 1965. Having long thought that trainingfootballers merely as athletes was limiting, Turnbull had visited the continent to learn new coaching techniques and was particularly struck by the technical accomplishment of Hungarian players.
It was a time when the old style of manager – wearing a suit and delegating the training-ground work – was still in place, but Turnbull joined the likes of Jock Stein, his great friend and adversary, in ushering in a new era in which tactics, man-management and ball work were integral. Aberdeen, wearing an all-red kit introduced by Turnbull, defeated Stein's Celtic in the 1970 Scottish Cup final, and soon Hibs came calling again.
Retaining his faith that skill and attacking verve can be irresistible, "Turnbull's Tornados" were born, a side full of creativity and ambition. They lifted the Scottish League Cup in 1972, while supporters continue to revere the 7-0 victory over their city rivals Hearts on New Year's Day 1973, but Turnbull was to leave the club in 1980 after the chairman, Tom Hart, signed a clearly alcoholic George Best against the manager's wishes and Hibs lurched to relegation.
For two decades Turnbull ostracised himself from Easter Road, while running a pub, but was eventually reconciled. He became a popular visitor to the ground, lionised byfans and respected by players and coaching staff. Still capable of a biting comment, but with his humour more evident and his understanding of the game as sharp and astute as always, Turnbull reclaimed his place in the club's history.
Edward Hunter Turnbull, footballer and football manager: born Carronshore, Falkirk 12 April 1933; played for Hibernian 1946-59, capped nine times for Scotland 1948-58, managed Queen's Park 1963-65, Aberdeen 1965-71, Hibernian 1971-80; married Carol (one daughter); died Edinburgh 30 April 2011.
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