Christopher James Turner left in tears the first time he visited London Road, the home of Peterborough United.
Arsenal fan Turner was 13 when he came to Posh to watch the mighty Gunners in a fourth round FA Cup tie in 1965. He wasn’t impressed that Third Division Posh beat top-flight Arsenal 2-1.
It didn’t stop Turner, by now a strapping centre-back, signing professional forms for Posh in November 1969 at the age of 18. The raw, gangly teenager went on to become the greatest central defender in Posh history.
Turner made his Posh debut in the centre of defence alongside the highly-rated John Wile in a Fourth Division game at Notts County. The match finished 2-2.
Turner did not become a regular in the Posh side until the 1971-72 season when he first formed a tremendous partnership with Jack Carmichael. He was an ever-present the following season, but his playing career really took off when Noel Cantwell became Posh manager in October, 1972.
Cantwell became a father figure to Turner and as manager and player they transformed a team bottom of the old Division Four into title winners in just 18 months.
Striker John Cozens captained the 1973-74 Fourth Division champions, but Turner became skipper midway through the following season and quickly established himself as one of the club’s great leaders and players.
He captained John Barnwell’s Division Three promotion challengers in the 1977-78 season when Posh set a club record of just 33 goals conceded in just 46 matches, Unfortunately a lack of goals at the other end meant Posh missed out on promotion to the second tier of English football for the first time in their history on goal difference.
That experienced side then broke up with Turner joining Luton Town of Division Two for a then Posh club record transfer fee of £100,000. Turner had played 364 times for Posh and scored 43 goals, a record for a defender, although so talented was he with the ball at his feet, he started the odd game as a centre forward.
Posh were relegated the following season without their talisman and they didn’t re-capture a Third Division place until he returned to London Road as manager in January 1991. It was an inspired decision by chairman John Devaney who took a punt on a man who by then was working as a van driver.
Turner spent just one season at Luton before joining his mentor Cantwell in American football with the New England Teamen. It was a lifestyle he loved, but he returned to English football to play 90 times for Cambridge United. He also played on loan at Swindon before finishing his playing career at Southend in 1984.
Turner spent two years outside professional football before returning as manager of Cambridge United where he unearthed the club’s first million pound player, centre-forward Dion Dublin. Dublin scored a hat-trick for Cambridge in a 5-1 win at Posh in January, 1989 and eventually moved on to play for Manchester United. The huge derby win gave Turner a great deal of satisfaction, but he was also saddened by the plight at the time of his favourite club.
Turner laid the foundations for unprecedented success at the Abbey Stadium by hiring John Beck as a coach. Beck took the club from the old Fourth Division to the verge of the top flight.
It was that success that persuaded Devaney to take his gamble on Turner after Posh’s form had collapsed in the latter part of 1990 and the early part of 1991.
“I liked him as soon as I met him,” Devaney said of Turner. “We had some rows, but I knew I had a man capable of making the club successful.”
Devaney wasn’t wrong. Posh were ninth in Division Four when Turner took charge, but they hadn’t won any of their previous six matches.
Posh won 1-0 at Walsall in Turner’s first match as manager, went on to win five of his first six matches and remained unbeaten in his first 12. Posh sealed an unlikely promotion with a 2-2 draw from 2-0 down at Chesterfield on the final day of the 1990-91 season.
Turner famously signed six players on transfer deadline day that March including Ken Charlery and Gary Cooper, two players who became instrumental in a promotion push from Division Three the following season.
Charlery was an erratic right-winger when he was signed from Maidstone United, Just over a year later he was a centre-forward scoring 26 goals in a season including two at Wembley as Posh beat Stockport 2-1 in the play-off final to secure back-to-back promotions and a place in the old Division One.
Posh created a club record of nine straight League wins that season after Turner’s inspired, and rather cheeky, raid on Northampton Town for class acts Tony Adcock and Bobby Barnes. Turner kept his football simple. It was 4-4-2, defenders defended and every player worked their socks off. Also in the 1991-92 campaign Posh beat Liverpool 1-0, as well as Newcastle, in the League Cup on their way to the quarter-finals where they took high-flying Division Two side Middlesbrough to a replay.
Posh started life in Division One well under Turner, but he dropped a bombshell in December 1992 by announcing he had led a buy-out of Posh and had resigned as manager to become chairman. He appointed his faithful assistant Lil Fuccillo as first-team boss and Posh finished 10th in Division One, the highest placing in the club’s history.
Posh would be relegated the following season despite a mini-improvement in the middle of the campaign after Turner had sacked Fuccillo and returned as manager himself in a caretaker capacity. Ill health forced Turner to step down again before the end of that season..
He carried on at the club as chief executive, but left after Posh was sold to Barry Fry, returning only to work briefly as a sales manager in 2000. Turner left Posh for the final time in May, 2001, a victim of cash constraints.
Turner was also an accomplished cricketer and golfer. He was a true leader of people and once led a march of supporters on Peterborough Town Hall to ensure that planning permission was granted to turn the old Glebe Road terrace into a massive new stand.
How appropriate it would be now if that stand was re-named ‘The Turner stand.’ It would be a fitting legacy for a true Posh legend who passed away earlier today (April 27) aged just 64 after a long struggle against dementia.