As a lifelong Motherwell supporter, I’m only looking at the positives of star midfielder David Turnbull’s imminent £3 million transfer to Celtic, writes Craig Goldthorp.
The Scottish champions had their offer for the Scottish Football Writers Player of the Year accepted on Wednesday evening, after a surge of interest in the 19-year-old – who scored 15 goals last season – from around 10 clubs north and south of the border.
Despite the fact that Turnbull will be a significant loss to Motherwell in a playing sense – his elevation to first team regular in October inspired a rise from the relegation zone to a comfortable eighth place Scottish Premiership finish – accepting the record offer plus add ons from Celtic is a no brainer.
A Motherwell FC statement summed it up perfectly: “Should the deal go through, the value will vastly exceed our previous record fee received.
“It will be transformational for us as we continue to operate as a fan-owned club.”
It’s now 25 years since the Steelmen accepted their previous record fee for a player – £1.75 million for Phil O’Donnell to Celtic – and that cash contributed towards the significant £5 million costs of building Fir Park’s South Stand.
The Turnbull fee – which will likely come with a sell on clause to be activated when the player likely leaves Celtic for many millions for a bigger club in future – is simply too big for ’Well to turn down.
The current Motherwell board – led astutely by chief executive Alan Burrows – have their heads screwed on when it comes to trying to maximise the value of players and ensuring they get their true value rather than jumping at the first offer.
English Championship outfit Barnsley had bid £2 million for Turnbull a week earlier and – while former Motherwell FC boards may have bitten at that offer – Burrows and his cohorts rebuffed it in the knowledge that higher bids would come in for their star asset who has been at Motherwell since the age of seven and came through the club’s revered academy system.
On numerous occasions, Burrows has shown excellent business acumen and is clearly the right man at the helm of the club he has supported all his days.
The appointment of Stephen Robinson as gaffer in March 2017 was inspired, as a team formerly being regularly hammered and in grave relegation danger was transformed into one which reached both national cup finals in season 2017-2018 and hasn’t been in significant relegation danger at the tail end of each of the last three seasons.
Robbo undertook a brave formational change midway through last season, when the tried and tested 3-5-2 formation – maligned by many for being painful on the eye – was ditched for a much more attractive 4-3-3 spearheaded by Turnbull in the centre and also featuring the wing talents of fellow academy graduate Jake Hastie.
Robbo’s decision to bring Hastie back from a loan spell at Alloa was an extremely shrewd one, as the 20-year-old’s fine displays and six goals between January and May landed him a transfer to Rangers which will see the Steelmen receive a development fee in excess of £400,000 this summer.
Burrows has also overseen the improvement of many facilities at Fir Park, including a bowling green-like pitch, new ticket scanning entry system, online ticket purchases and a new roof on Fir Park’s John Hunter Stand.
His recent gesture in informing ’Well supporters that visiting fans will no longer be housed in the Phil O’Donnell Stand was also welcomed by home fans and is further proof that Burrows listens to what the punters want and delivers.
But, in my opinion, the best thing that Burrows brings to the table is the fact that under his leadership the days of Motherwell being ‘shafted’ in the transfer market would most definitely seem to be over.
Look at previous generations of Motherwell teams – with less impressive guys in charge at boardroom level – and you’ll see what I mean.
Back in the mid 1990s – when the Bosman ruling hurt Motherwell on more than one occasion – midfield star Paul Lambert’s contract was allowed to run down and he left to join Borussia Dortmund for nothing in summer 1996.
Twelve months later Lambert won the Champions League with Dortmund, with Motherwell having not received a penny from the German giants for his services.
Stellar left back Rob McKinnon was another one to leave Motherwell that summer for nothing under freedom of contract.
He duly left for Dutch outfit Twente Enschede for whom he played 50 matches between 1996 and 1998.
Stars like Ross McCormack (first time round!), Darren Randolph and Michael Higdon are other ’Well stars who’ve left in recent years for the grand total of peanuts.