David Turnbull reflects on Celtic Europa League journey as he names the game he felt he 'arrived'

By Scott McDermott

It might have been a Europa League dead rubber for Celtic.

But for David Turnbull, it was the game that sparked his Parkhead career into life.

In their final Group H tie against French cracks Lille last season, the midfielder was handed only his second start for the Hoops since signing from Motherwell.

Until that point, he’d struggled to force his way into Neil Lennon ’s side – even though a section of the support was crying out for his inclusion.

With the manager under pressure, he was given a chance to shine against Lille in December, with Celtic already out of the tournament.

But Turnbull grabbed the opportunity by setting up Christopher Jullien’s opener then bagging a brilliant winner in their 3-2 victory.

(Getty Images)

The result ultimately didn’t save Lennon.

But Turnbull has barely looked back in a Celtic shirt and is now a mainstay of the team under new gaffer Ange Postecoglou.

On Thursday night, they’ll embark on another Europa League journey by travelling to Seville to take on Real Betis.

Instead of being on the fringes, Turnbull will be a key man for Postecoglou in Spain.

And the 22-year-old is convinced that his performance against Lille almost 10 months ago was the catalyst for his Parkhead progress.

Ahead of their Group G opener in midweek, Turnbull said: “The Lille game felt like an arrival for me at Celtic.

“I don’t think I’ve ever looked back since then.

“It was a huge game for me personally. I went into the team that night having not had much game time before then.

“We went into it knowing we were out of the group stages so it was just about trying to prove a point.

“And I felt we did that against Lille. It was a great night and hopefully we can have more of those this year.

“I just tried to treat the Lille game like any other. But I knew it was big for me because I hadn’t played many games for Celtic.

“It was massive for me to have a good game and show what I could do.

“Afterwards, I felt I’d done that and it was a great feeling knowing that.

“I the just had to try and continue doing that in every game.

“I’d say that was the night I proved to the Celtic fans I belonged here. It was my first full game.

“I’d had one or two chances as a sub before that but after Lille, I felt more like part of the team.”

Turnbull and Celtic skipper Callum McGregor will probably be the only two players from the side who faced Lille to start on Thursday against Betis.

Such has been the overhaul in personnel at Parkhead, seven of the 11 are no longer at the club – and only Ismaila Soro has an outside chance of joining them in Seville.

Turnbull is delighted that he’s stuck it out and is now thriving under Postecoglou.

After the disappointment of their Old Firm defeat to Rangers at Ibrox before the international break, the Scotland midfielder can’t wait to sample Europe again.

He said: “It makes me proud that I’m still here. I can’t remember the team exactly against Lille but I know there aren’t many of those boys left.

“So I’m happy to still be here. Since that game I’ve pretty much kept myself in the team for every match.

“I hope to continue to make the position my own.

“The turnaround in players here has been massive but the boys who have come in have been brilliant.

“It’s been a good challenge for all of us.

“I’m looking forward to the game on Thursday night massively.

“It will be a tough one against Real Betis but we know what we need to do.

“We’re focusing on the game and it should be a good experience for all the lads.

“It’s a big stadium, a big crowd and it should be a good atmosphere.

“I’ve already played games in Europe this season and obviously there was that one last year.

“So I’m kinda getting used to it now. It’s just about trying to implement my own game on every match we go into.”

Turnbull has now established himself as one of Celtic’s main players and is also a regular in a Scotland squad trying to qualify for the World Cup.

He feels at home on the European stage due to the style of football he likes to play.

And given his career progression so far at such a young age, you sense that nothing will faze the former Motherwell player.

He said: “Every team in Europe is good on the ball so the games are tough. It’s always at a fast tempo, with high presses.

“But it’s good for me to challenge myself against some of these players and teams at that level.

“Every game adds to your experience and I try to look at it that way throughout my life.

“You know when it’s a bigger game but I try to keep things the same — think the same, do the same routine. That’s how I go into every game.

“Maybe in the bigger games there’s added pressure from the outside.

“But I’m a pretty relaxed guy and take every game as it comes. That’s what I’ll keep doing.”


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