Turning to a new chapter

This season there has been much discussion on the injuries in the Shamrock Rovers playing squad.  So much so that you would be fearful that the match programme is turning into a medical journal.  Tonight’s player interview with Chris Turner was arranged ahead of the last home game which saw Shamrock Rovers draw 1-1 with Sligo Rovers.  In that game Turner didn’t even last 45 minutes as injury forced the Ulsterman to hobble off just before half time.  When Hoops Scene spoke to him the next day, it was after he had spent the morning getting his leg checked out including getting an x-ray.  So yet again this season it was straight into a discussion about the injury situation at Rovers.

“It is a nightmare with the injuries.  I came off last night with my leg when I went over on it.  I tried to get the ball and I fell over with my body weight all going on my leg.  The pain started shooting through.  This morning when I got up it wasn’t too bad but when I put pressure on it it’s uncomfortable.  I went to get an x-ray today.  However, it is nothing too serious.”

An injury is all Turner needs after spending the first few weeks of the season being forced to sit on the sidelines due to issues with his league registration.  While his injury meant that he missed the Rovers win last week over early league table toppers Saint Patrick’s Athletic, he made it back for the disappointing defeat against his old club Dundalk on Bank Holiday Monday evening.  “I’m starting to feel fit again so this is a bit of a set back,” he said and then added correctly that “I’ll be back for the Dundalk game on the Monday.”  As the player described himself, he isn’t the best spectator.  “I sit right on the edge of my seat but I want to be out there playing and having an influence on the game.  It was obviously frustrating I was out for so long, I think I missed six games.  I just couldn’t wait to get back in playing again”.

The difficulties arose when Sligo Rovers disputed that Turner could sign with the Hoops.  “I went to Sligo for a couple of days to try and get things sorted out but things weren’t getting sorted so I came to Shamrock Rovers.  Sligo made an appeal for some reason.”  The situation dragged on for a number of weeks before the FAI’s Dispute Resolution Committee ruled against Sligo and deemed Turner a free agent, allowing him to sign for Rovers.  It meant that after a month on the sidelines he could finally get back playing which Turner was thankful for.  “Yeah it was very frustrating.  I didn’t know when the end would be coming.  There was no time frame on it and I had to play it by ear.  Trevor [Crolly] and the gaffer [Michael O’Neill] kept me interested, kept my fitness going and they were great for me.  I’m delighted that I’ve ended up coming to Shamrock Rovers.”

Turner made his debut for the Hoops in the 1-1 draw against Sporting Fingal and was enjoying his football before the setback last week.  “I was getting a wee run of games there just to get my fitness back.  I’m starting to feel fit again so this is a bit of a setback but hopefully I will not be out too long; maybe I’ll be back for the Dundalk game on the Monday”.

He did return for this game but it was an evening to try and forget for Shamrock Rovers for many reasons.  On the field, the Hoops suffered their first defeat in nine league games.  Against his old team Dundalk, he couldn’t help Rovers recover from letting in two goals in three minutes early in the second half.  It was with Dundalk last season that Turner scored an impressive 12 goals from midfield.  “I do like to score goals and I like to get on the score sheet.  So hopefully I can chip in with some this year to help us out.  But as long as we keep winning games and keep getting points on the board, I’m not really bothered how many goals I get as long as we keep winning”. If he can’t score the goals he knows someone who can get some, Gary Twigg, who has scored four goals in his last five games.  “He’s brilliant, he only needs half a chance to hit the back of the net.  It is a great quality to have.  I’m just glad he is with me on my team and not against me!”  Both  Turner and Twigg were on the score sheet for their then respective teams in last season’s entertaining 4-2 win on the artificial surface in Dundalk’s Oriel Park where Rovers played again last Monday night.  How did he find playing on the “plastic” pitch last season?  “We actually trained on it every day and so you sort of get used to it.  For a few of the older players it is quite sore on them and on their joints.  You are quite stiff after training so for the older players it is quite difficult for them to be training on it every day and then playing matches.  For playing on it in matches, if it is wet, it is quick and it is lively.  When it’s dry, it is very sticky and the ball gets stuck under your feet so it’s not very nice to play on then.  But it didn’t really bother me.”

After beginning his League of Ireland career with Sligo before joining Bohemians, Turner made a move to Scotland where he was close to signing for the blue half of the Old Firm.  “I had a trial with Rangers when I left Bohemians.  I ended up being there six weeks.  I was playing in their reserves and that is whenever Partick Thistle saw me and they contacted me.  That’s how I ended up signing for Partick Thistle.  I just wanted to get back playing but things at Partick didn’t really work out and that’s whenever I decided to come back playing for Dundalk.  I got my opportunity there and thankfully I had a good year.  Now I’ve got my move to Shamrock Rovers, on to bigger and better things”.

His move to Rovers has increased competition in midfield and Turner recognises that players need to be on top form to retain their place in the team.  “I think we have great players at the club and everybody has got to be on their toes to keep their position in the team and if you’re not, I think you’ll find yourself out of the team and sitting on the bench and nobody wants to sit on the bench.”

Having played with Sligo, Bohemians and Dundalk in recent years, the former Northern Ireland u21 captain is in a good position to comment on these teams in what has turned out to be a very competitive start to this season’s Airtricity league which currently sees Dundalk top of the league.  “I think they’ve got some key players and they’ve managed to hold on to them.  They will be very important for them in the next few months so if they can keep them fit, they’ve got a very strong starting 11 and will be a match for anybody.  Obviously teams have got stronger in the league and there is a lot more competition.  I don’t think it is a two horse race as people were making out at the start of the year.  There are a lot of strong teams in it.  I think everybody can beat everybody on their day and you have to be on your toes every game.  If you’re not, you’ll find yourself getting beaten.  It is an open league.  Definitely it is there for the taking if you really want it.  If you keep going and keep winning games you’ll find yourself there or there abouts.”  Last weekend’s series of games certainly showed that, with the Hoops fine win over St. Pat’s on Friday then followed by a defeat which allowed Dundalk to go back top of the league with their win over Rovers on Monday night.  Turner and this team mates will hope that Rovers will go on another long unbeaten run starting with a win over Galway United this evening.

Photo by George Kelly from http://www.shamrockrovers.ie

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