Football: Turner turns full circle

Simon Turnbull talks to the man who put his heart, and nearly his house, into Peterborough
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The Independent Online
As Peter Boizot counted out his dough on Thursday morning, the staff of Peterborough United were counting their blessings. "Mr Posh" the Evening Telegraph's front-page headline proclaimed of the Peterborough man who made a fortune out of pizzas and who came up with the cash to save the city's financially starved football club. Chris Turner was left counting an extended portfolio of jobs which makes him a counter-claimant to the title of Mr Peterborough United.

"I'll have to go through them," Turner said, when asked in how many roles he has been employed in 18 years of broken service at London Road. "Player, manager, chief executive, managing director... er, chairman... er, company secretary." So "football co-ordinator" is the seventh job at Peterborough that Turner has taken; eighth if you count the club captaincy. It represents a significant step down from managing director but it was clear at Boizot's takeover press conference that, having been so heavily involved in the protracted fight to keep the Second Division club afloat, Turner was content to return to the backroom.

"Stepping down doesn't bother me," he said. "People would say I'm going back to the thing I'm best at: the football side of the club," he said. "My job won't affect the working relationship I have with Barry Fry. He is the manager and the man in charge of the first team. I will assist any way I can, but my responsibility is the rest of the football side. I want to help develop the youth policy I set up four years ago.

"We've made enough mistakes here. That's why the club has been sold. But I honestly believe the youth policy is the way forward for us. Transfer money is going abroad now rather than trickling down the leagues and the situation could get worse because of the Bosman ruling. We've already got one of the best youth set-ups in the country and over the next two or three years we might have four or five home-grown players playing in our first-team. Then we'll have the option of selling them to the Newcastles or keeping them."

The signs, however, are encouraging. Peterborough have seven internationals in their youth team, including the Dane Anders Koogi, and the nurturing of such talent is the main reason Boizot has decided to save and invest in the club he supported in their Midland League days. He has told Fry to exploit such gems rather than "ask for pounds 1m to sign some centre-forward from Gateshead". Hence Turner's new role. His brief is to oversee the polishing process, from the junior ranks through to the first team.

The prospect of Fry managing without a chequebook seems about as likely as a pizza without mozzarella. But, having risked his mortgage in his own aborted takeover bid, he was happy to shake on a management deal with Boizot on Thursday. The immediate task is to avoid relegation but Boizot's five-year mission is to see his Posh young things knocking on the Premiership door, looking to "do a Wimbledon".

Tenth in the First Division is the pinnacle of Peterborough's Football League career to date. Turner was the manager who led them into that 1992- 93 campaign. "I thought it was the ultimate for us just to get into the First Division," he said. "If we get there with Peter Boizot's help in the next two or three years we've got to make sure we stay there. If we do that, we'll have turned things round."

Peter Boizot profile, main section, page 21