Football: Turner aims to paint new Posh picture: Peterborough bank on having an effect on Tottenham. Ian Ridley reports

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The Independent Online
CHRIS TURNER is facing more major surgery to follow up October's four and a half hour operation on a perforated bowel, while the club he part-owns and runs are bottom of the league. It is being so cheerful, though, that keeps him going.

That football has a capacity for camaraderie that seems to keep bad at bay is evident this wet morning as Turner sits in his office at London Road gulping coffee and instructing his assistant, Mick Halsall, with barely concealed delight to 'bash' the players before lunch, with a 'bit of quality work on the astroturf' in the afternoon.

Football, too, has a capacity for the illogical called the FA Cup, which is why Turner's Peterborough United have a decent chance against Tottenham at home tomorrow in the third round, the annual kick-start to the second half of the season, despite disparity in status and resources.

The return of the effervescent 42-year-old Turner as manager might also instil again in the Posh, whose splendid nickname was carved in the Cup's folklore in the late 1950s when their runs earned them Football League status, the impetus he provided in his last spell running the team. Then, he took them up from then Fourth Division to what is now the First, in which they were a best-ever 10th last season.

Turner, as a sort of lower-division Terry Venables, has uniquely played for, captained, managed and been chairman and chief executive of Peterborough. 'I don't care what you call me,' he said. 'My personality doesn't change. I am the same whether I fly at one of the girls or the lads if they are doing something wrong. Except that I don't swear at the girls.'

He reassumed, reluctantly, the reins of team management - 'the hardest job in the world' - 10 days ago when Lil Fuccillo resigned, Turner joking that he was the only unsackable manager in the country. He will probably remain so until the end of the season.

'I haven't enjoyed management, because of the inconsistencies,' he said. 'Often in myself but also in players and the way clubs are run.' He detests the business amateurism of English clubs, pointing to Italy as the model. 'I'm not frightened of losing, or the pressure of it but I feel I have more to offer as a general manager,' he said.

He was a craggy centre-half who could also play on the ground, with Luton and the New England Tea Men as well, in those 1970s days when they seemed to abound and would probably these days command more than a million. Then came four years, after which he was 'mentally and physically exhausted', as manager of Cambridge United.

He moved upstairs to general manager but was ousted in a boardroom coup and fetched up at Peterborough. The chance to buy Peterborough came 13 months ago and he found pounds 100,000 of his own to go with the near pounds 1m of his 'father figure', the retired businessman, Alf Hand, now chairman again.

'I am not a football nut. I love horse racing, cricket and golf but football is just a job to me and I could walk away from it. Alf knows that, which is why he asked me to make the financial commitment,' Turner said.

'My wife asks why when I could have had two other better paid management jobs in the First Division. Also, I don't think there is great potential here when you think that we averaged only 6,000 of our own supporters in our first year in the First Division. But we can make a good club here, a proper football club in 10 years, if we don't get sidetracked.'

Offices being built testify to a new era of husbandry at the club, which may have shocked some supporters in revealing that its players earned between pounds 25,000 and pounds 35,000 a year, though that is less than half than in the division's bigger clubs, and which has not used its overdraft facility.

It is on the field, though, that clubs are judged and attempts to take the next step and adapt their direct style to a higher level have this season foundered. A one-off Cup tie always offers hope, however.

'When we beat Liverpool here in the Coca-Cola Cup last year we convinced ourselves that we could stop them playing and then we have got a chance with a referee's decision or a linesman's flag, or a mistake by them instead of us.

'But Spurs won't mind coming here. This isn't a poky little hole, it's a big ground and there'll be 20,000 people here. It's a nice place with a nice pitch and they played here the Monday before the season started.' Much will depend on the contributions of young players like the former Spur, David McDonald, and the record pounds 160,000 signing, Ken Charlery, up front.

Turner remembers Peterborough Cup runs of his own, notably to the fourth round in 1976 when they lost

3-1 to Manchester United. 'I headed the ball out to Gordon Hill who scored from 35 yards. I remember because it was Goal of the Month. I also remember one year Angela Rippon saying on the Nine o'Clock News that she didn't know if this result was correct but that Northwich Victoria had beaten Peterborough 4-2.'

Win, lose or draw - and he admits that the manager in him wants to win and the chief executive would not mind a draw with its guarantee of a lucrative replay - he will let nothing get him down, he insists.

'The surgery had made me appreciate different things,' he said. 'I don't feel under any pressure. I know what values are.'

And though naturally apprehensive, he is coping with the thought of the next operation. 'My surgeon is brilliant. He's like me. He's a good talker.'

(Photograph omitted)

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