IT seems strange to say it now given how rapidly he has become indispensable to Celtic, but it wasn’t so long ago that David Turnbull was struggling to get off their substitute’s bench. And even when he did eventually get his chance, it was more through necessity than design.
When opportunity knocked though, there was no doubt in Gordon Young’s mind that the player he helped along the way from precocious kid to one of the Scotland’s brightest talents was always going to make the most of his moment to shine.
Young was the head of the Motherwell Academy when Turnbull joined the Fir Park club as a nine-year-old, and from then on, he was convinced that the young lad from Wishaw was destined for the very top.
Now, he believes that not only should Turnbull be one of the first names on the Celtic teamsheet, but as they set about reviving their team from the wreckage of this disastrous attempt at securing a tenth title in a row, they should place the attacking midfielder at the very heart of their plans.
“I think they should [build their team around him],” Young said. “Possibly when Celtic tried to buy him the year before, they probably had in mind that there was going to be a transitional period at some point in that year or 18 month period. He would be one who would be the type that you could mould players round about.
“Given that he is now such an important player in the team, and that he’s been such a big part of the transformation of when Celtic got on a run, you would see him being a focal part of the team for quite a period of time.
“He’s a listener and a learner, but he’s got natural talent. Sometimes people will say that natural talent is being able to run fast or being able to shoot, but his ability to read the game is a natural talent.
“He picks up off other players, and he will be a dream to coach, because he has that ability to take on information and deliver the skill attached to it.”
The big question that many Celtic fans are asking now is just why it took until early December for the £3m capture to get a sustained run in the team, particularly as their form had nosedived so badly from mid-October until the introduction of Turnbull and Ismaila Soro into the midfield.
Not that Turnbull would be the type to knock the manager’s door so soon after his arrival at such a big club.
“I was a wee bit surprised that he wasn’t in the Celtic team sooner, but now that he’s in there, you wouldn’t take him out,” Young said.
“He’s the type that it wouldn’t faze him when he wasn’t getting in the team right away. He wasn’t going to spit the dummy out or down tools, he is the type who would wait for the opportunity and look every day to show his ability for when the time is right.
“Another great attribute of his is the strong-willed nature that he has got. He has a poker face and he is hard to read, but that is a good thing as he has that inner ability to know that when the opportunity comes along, he would be good enough to perform at that level.
“When you are a young player and you join a big club, especially for a big fee, they want to make sure they do things right and integrate him properly.
“I would imagine though that when you see David Turnbull training, you would think that he was more than capable in that company, that’s why it was a wee bit of a surprise to me that he didn’t play quicker.
“I think he has that quiet belief in himself, and I think other players will see that as well.
“Sometimes when you see players coming in with a wee bit of hype and a reputation, other players want to suss them out. Whereas if you come in under the radar as David has and earned your way into the team, the other players round about him will trust him.
“I think the best example was the free-kick on Monday. They had 10 minutes to go and it’s 20-odd yards out from goal and equally set up for a left or right footer. David feels comfortable in taking it, and Callum McGregor beside him feels comfortable in letting him take it.
“So, that’s both sides of the coin where the player has inner confidence, but his teammates also have that confidence and belief in him too. If you put the two of them together it’s a great formula.
“You can see him looking at where the goalkeeper is standing, you can see him calculating in his mind how he’s going to get it up and down over the wall, and it nestles in the side netting. Two goalies don’t save it.
“That’s down to that combination he has of belief, technique, and delivery.”
The worry for Celtic fans now might be that as Turnbull’s star continues to grow apace, there may be others noting the attributes that Young has listed, and his stay at Celtic Park may well be short and sweet.
For Young, he has a lot more to give, both at his present club and at an even higher level further down the line.
“Any time you play for Celtic, I imagine you are in the shop window,” he said.
“There are players who have gone on to the very top level in England and Europe that have come through that set-up.
“I’ve come across a lot of players with different mindsets, and he is one that just loves training and playing, so he wouldn’t be one setting his sights on something bigger right now.
“He’ll be challenging himself though and making sure he plays more minutes, scores more goals, makes more assists and making sure his numbers keep going up. When all of those things tally up, you then become a sought after commodity.
“The guys that I work with in the game and that ask me about him, I tell them I never had any question. Success has got many fathers and everybody wants their wee bit, clamouring for their piece of the credit.
“There’s so many kids go through systems and they all find their level, but this boy hasn’t found his level yet. This boy is going up all the time.”