“It’s madness really,” said the PFA Scotland young player of the year nominee about Stewart’s commendation. “I was sitting watching Sportscene with my mum and dad on Sunday night, and any time I spoke, my mum told me to shoosh so she could hear. I was delighted with it, because it’s obviously really high praise.
“It was midfielders that I looked up to. Frank Lampard in the Premier League was one. Ballack I know was a great player and I saw bits of him when he was with Chelsea. I was pretty young, so I can’t remember too much. But he scored good goals and contributed a lot. I’ve been meaning to get round to watching some of his videos on YouTube.”
Turnbull is entitled to be losing himself watching clips of his own scoring contributions to a break-out season that will surely see the 19-year-old walk off with a hatful of awards. His 13 league goals represent just under a third of his team’s total.
Stephen Robinson turned to the youngster when Motherwell found themselves gasping for air at the bottom of the Premiership in October. Despite his youth and inexperience, Turnbull oxygenated his club’s season with his ferocious striking power and ability to find pockets of space to whip in efforts. His transformation to Scotland’s top young talent wasn’t exactly on the “to do” list at the start of this season.
“My target was just to get as many minutes as I could for the first team, maybe a sub appearance here and there. I never expected it to go anywhere near as far as it has, or do as well as I’ve done. I’m just delighted with it,” he said.
“Even January last season, we were looking at a loan to League One. I’m probably glad that never happened. At the start of this season, I wasn’t getting many games, so I was looking to get maybe Championship level. Fair play to the gaffer, he wasn’t for letting me go out, and it’s done me the world of good.”
Turnbull is the forward-thinking midfielder who has become rounded by being forced to look back. The transition hasn’t been easy, he confesses. “All the way up through the youth academy, all the parents nights, what they said to me was that the defensive side of the game was what I needed to work on. It was maybe why the gaffer wasn’t putting me in, but he’s helped me work on my game with points and tips.”
Turnbull is vying with life-long friend and team-mate Jake Hastie, Aberdeen’s Lewis Ferguson and Ryan Kent of Rangers for the PFA Scotland young player award. Hastie’s summer move to Ibrox has been confirmed but it’s not giving Turnbull itchy feet. “I’m just focussed on Motherwell at the moment. It’s great for Jake to get a big move. I hope he does well. I’m happy to stay at Motherwell and see what happens next season. I want to keep kicking on and bring what I can to the team.”