LESS than two weeks into the new season, Chris Turner has become the third Football League boss to lose his job as a summer of frustration appeared to take its toll on the former Sunderland goalkeeper.
Hartlepool United have made an unbeaten start to the new campaign – knocking Sheffield United out of the League Cup in a result which contributed to Kevin Blackwell’s early departure from Sheffield United. But it is off the field where the problems lay.
Turner was hoping to overhaul his squad this summer after escaping relegation to League Two on goal difference in May.
Eight players were released or sold, but only four came in – all on free transfers, with midfielder Paul Murray only on a month-long contract, and back-up goalkeeper Andy Rafferty from non-league Guisborough Town. Fabián Yantorno is yet to play after delays in receiving international clearance for the Uruguayan striker.
Neither Turner nor anyone at the club were commenting beyond yesterday’s brief statement, but the 51-year-old has made clear his feelings in recent weeks. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out what could happen if we haven’t improved much from the squad that only just stayed up last season and other teams have strengthened,” he argued in an interview with The Journal days before the new campaign kicked off with a 0-0 draw at Rochdale.
He added: “Whether we will be able to get any more people in, you will have to ask the owners.” But a couple of days later, with Murray and Yantorno signed, he commented there was “no chance” of any more.
Comments about the fragility of his squad were a regular feature of Turner’s early and pre-season comments.
He had, however, made sweeping changes the previous season and Hartlepool’s statement contained the telling line: “After bringing in 12 players at the start of last season, and with the three points deducted by the Football League, the team only just managed to stay in League One.”
At the end of last season the contract of his long-time number two, Colin West, was not renewed. West was Turner’s assistant in his first spell at Hartlepool, and followed him to Sheffield Wednesday and Stockport County. Since West’s departure there has been much talk – denied by the club – of a takeover.
West, who also ran the reserves, was replaced by Mick Wadsworth, who assumes caretaker control for tomorrow’s trip to Yeovil Town. The vastly experienced coach’s influence was stamped all over Hartlepool’s transfer business. Yantorno, Murray and Evan Horwood – their other summer signing – played for Wadsworth at Gretna, and Murray was under him at Carlisle United and Beira-Mar of Portugal too.
Sir Bobby Robson’s former assistant manager at Newcastle United has also taken charge of Matlock Town, Scarborough, Colchester United, St Kitts and Nevis, Oldham Athletic, Huddersfield Town, DR Congo and Chester City.
Turner was de facto, rather than official manager at Victoria Park, and despite the success of his first spell, enjoyed a strained relationship with supporters since returning as director of sport in 2006.
He replaced Danny Wilson when his former Sheffield Wednesday team-mate left in December 2008. It was initially portrayed as a caretaker role, but quietly became permanent.
The strain on Turner was evident when he broke down in tears after the draw at Brentford which kept his side in League One. That their fate had gone to the last day was because of the Football League’s decision that week to dock three points for fielding the suspended Gary Liddle against Brighton and Hove Albion.
Last night Hartlepool refused to comment on rumours that chief executive Russ Green has also tendered his resignation.
Bristol City’s Steve Coppell was the other manager to leave his job, while Martin O’Neill walked out on Aston Villa days before the new Premier League campaign.