Turnbull Tribute Warmly Recollects Verbal Spat

Verbal spats between football club managers and the media are nothing new and sports writer, Bryan Cooney, writes, warmly, of a particularly juicy one involving Eddie Turnbull, the legendary manager of Hibernian, who died on Saturday at the age of 88. 

He recalled in yesterday's Sunday Herald: “It took me three months to fall out with [former Celtic and Scotland manager, the late] Jock Stein when I returned to Scotland in 1974. My relationship with Eddie Turnbull, the irascible manager of Hibernian, lasted three minutes.”

Writes Cooney, a former Daily Mail sports editor: “Turnbull, at that time, had signed another striker in Joe Harper (making four or five on the books, all of them extremely capable) and I asked him whether he’d find difficulty in accommodating everyone. His response was robust: he indicated that if I were intent on asking questions like that, then I’d better chose my exit … door or window! Some weeks later I met up with him again, this time at his former club, Aberdeen.

“He had just placed one of those strikers, Alan Gordon, on the transfer list. The player had claimed that the fee being asked was prohibitive and the implicit criticism of his manager made huge headlines in my newspaper.

“And there I was, congratulating myself on such perspicacity, as I stood in the [Aberdeen FC stadium] Pittodrie foyer where Turnbull was being quizzed by a reporter. Patently distracted, he kept looking over at me. I didn’t need to belong to the Metrological Office to know a storm was about to break. I was unable, however, to forecast its ferocity.

“'Excuse me, sir,' he said, 'but is your name Cooney?'

“'Yes, that’s right …'

“'Bryan Cooney?'

“'Right again.'

“'Bryan Cooney … of the Sun?'

“'Three correct answers wins a prize,' I replied, far too flippant for even my own liking.

 “'Well, you’re a ****, then. A f****** ****… Don’t you f****** come near Easter Road again!'”

Turnbull and Cooney many years later made up and, indeed, two years ago, the sportswriter interviewed the the then octogenarian for his Stuff of Legends series on BBC Radio Scotland. Cooney recalls: “He delivered with aplomb. His eyes were twinkling as I left.

“‘It’s been worth your time coming through, eh?’

“It had indeed.”

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