In marked contrast to the same-day appointment of new Dons boss Tommy Pearson
back in 1959, when Pearson relinquished his post in February, 1965, the board
took 16 days to announce his successor - the Queen's Park coach and
former Hibernian inside-forward, Eddie Turnbull.
Turnbull, born in Falkirk on April 12, 1923, had little or no Aberdeen connection
and, in that respect, his appointment was reminiscent of that of Dave Halliday
some 27 years earlier. Eddie?s football career began with Grangemouth
club Forth rangers, but his introduction into senior soccer had to await the
termination of hostilities in World War Two. He signed for Hibs on the resumption
of competitive football after the war and proceeded to play out his entire
senior career in the green and white of the Edinburgh club.
Turnbull quickly developed into a highly competitive "no-nonsense" type
of inside-forward and became an integral part of the legendary Hibs "famous
five" forward line that was a prime factor in Hibernian landing the league
title on three separate occasions between 1947 and 1952. He was capped eight
times by Scotland.
In 1959 he called it a day as a player but remained at Easter Road in the
capacity of trainer until March, 1963, when he decided to accept the post of
coach at Queen's Park. With Turnbull in charge, the "Spiders" had
their best season in years and, indeed, in January, 1964, took the Dons to
a replay and extra-time at Hampden in a Scottish Cup second round tie that
probably ultimately put Eddie in the frame for the Dons manager's job
when it fell vacant a little over a year later. Once in charge at Pittodrie,
Turnbull, the first real "modern" manager in Aberdeen's history,
wasted no time in stamping his powerful personality on the club and a new discipline
was instilled into the players that survived a very severe clear-out within
weeks of Eddie's arrival at the end of the 1964-65 season. The club's
scouting system was similarly savaged, with only the incomparable chief scout
Bobby Calder surviving the Turnbull axe.
From the outset, it became clear that Eddie Turnbull would be a no-nonsense
disciplinarian as a manager but he did not neglect the finer points of the
game. For the first time, training featured a ball apiece for the players as
the new boss infused many of his own qualities as a player into his new-look
Dons side and gave the fans a new respect in their club. In his first full
season in charge, Turnbull guided the Dons to mid-table respectability over
an erratic league campaign, but, importantly, on the Scottish Cup front, ended
Aberdeen's run of disastrous exits with a run to the club's first
semi-final for seven years, where they took Rangers to a replay before losing
2-1 at Hampden.
Most important of all was the fact that the Aberdeen public regained faith
in the team and were backing that up in ever-increasing numbers as they sensed
a team on the rise. The following season, the fans' faith in Turnbull
was justified by Aberdeen's first appearance in the Scottish Cup final
in eight years (thus gaining the Dons their first-ever place in Europe) but
unfortunately, illness robbed him of the chance to accompany his charges to
Hampden, where the Dons undoubtedly missed his leadership and went down 2-0
The relative success of Turnbull's first two years in command had been
achieved mainly by the introduction of inexpensive but experienced players
such as Harry Melrose and Jim Storrie, but as Turnbull sought to get the club
on a sounder footing y blooding young talent, such as Jimmy Smith and Tommy
Craig, the next two campaigns under the ex-Hibs midfielder proved to be a leaner
The 1969-70 season looked to be heading down the dame road, and the fans,
looking back on the departure of both Smith and Craig south of the border,
began to wonder if the club's policy of selling unsettled players could
ever lead to anything other than coming close to success on occasions. However,
Turnbull's new blend of talent leapt to prominence with a memorable Scottish
Cup run that culminated in a sensational 3-1 upset win over Celtic in the 1970
final and Eddie Turnbull only the second manager in Dons history to guide his
side to Scottish Cup glory.
The following season, the Dons proved their cup form was no flash in the pan
and all but ended Celtic's five-year domination of the Scottish League
scene, but the Turnbull's bitter disappointment, his side fell at the
final hurdle with the title just out of their grasp.
To the dismay of players and fans alike, Eddie was introduced back to his Easter
Road roots to manage Hibs during the 1971 close season. In earlier seasons
at Pittodrie he had rejected approaches by the SFA to take charge of the national
side, and by Rangers who wanted him as manager at Ibrox, but the pull of Easter
Road proved too strong.
At Easter Road he continued in much the same vein as at Pittodrie, taking
Hibs to the odd Hampden event and running the Old Firm close for the title
over two successive seasons, but the advent of the Premier League seemed to
mark the end of the best years for Eddie Turnbull as a manager. He remained
in the manager's chair at Easter Road until April 1980, by which time
he had been co-opted to the Hibs board. On leaving the game, Eddie Turnbull
turned to the licensed trade and ran his pub in Edinburgh.
On the 30th of April 2011, a Saturday, Eddie passed away. It was only a few days after his 88th birthday and he had been at Pittodrie when Hibs came calling on the 9th of April. Typically, although frail, he remained razor sharp, and still called a spade a ******* shovel.