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On This Day (2 July 1979): Sunderland get their Turner prize

Soon to become a Roker Park favourite, Chris Turner joined Sunderland 43 years ago today!

Greeting the crowd after a virtuoso performances against Nottingham Forest in 1984

Bought for a fee reported at the time as being £90,000, Chris Turner arrived on Wearside ahead of the 1979-80 campaign.

It has since been suggested that the goalkeeper cost nearer £100,000, but whatever the amount it was money well spent – Turner played his part in what proved to be a promotion-winning season and over time would be regarded as one of the best stoppers to have played for Sunderland.

Although only 20 at the time of the transfer, Turner had already made a name for himself at Sheffield Wednesday.

Awarded the Owls’ Player of the Year gong in 1977-78, he followed that achievement up by being named in the third division PFA Team of the Year during the subsequent campaign despite a midtable finish for Jack Charlton’s side.

Newly installed Sunderland boss Ken Knighton knew he had the potential to step up however, and was so keen to get the deal done that he began negotiations whilst still on holiday.

Ron Linney, who got the deal done on this day

Knighton had seen Turner up close whilst working at Hillsborough as a coach, and once an agreement was reached in principle Turner travelled north.

He arrived at Roker on this day, and with the manager still away it was left to Secretary Ron Linney to conclude matters.

The move was confirmed in the local press the following day, and it was made clear from the start that the new boy would be in contention for the number one spot.

Barry Siddall had been the undisputed first-choice keeper for almost three years and had just signed a new contract himself, yet Turner was no back up option.

The papers were briefed that the pair would be in direct competition for selection, and whilst Siddall retained his place initially, his rival would soon get the upper hand.

The pair were switched in and out for a period but come the vital 1979-80 run in, it was Turner that got the nod.

Chris in the thick of the action...

He kept a clean sheet on the evening promotion was secured with a victory over FA Cup holders West Ham United, but an early show of his prowess had come on another night of success when the club won the Daily Express Five-A-Side tournament in October 1979.

The Wembley Arena competition provided the perfect scene for Turner to showcase his remarkable agility – an attribute that fans would witness time and time again in the coming decade.

During Sunderland’s subsequent five-year spell in the top-flight, their longest since relegation in 1957 and one that has only been bettered once since, Turner was hugely influential.

There were several occasions in which he seemed to be on a one man mission to pull the Lads through games, and his displays en route to the 1985 Milk Cup final have gone down in history as some of the best displays of shot-stopping seen from a Black Cat – an apt nickname given his reflexes.

Two great goalkeepers, as Turner receives the January 1983 Matchman of the Month award

After playing at the Arena early on in his Sunderland career, one of Turner’s last appearances for the club came at Wembley Stadium in that Milk Cup final.

Despite defeat to Norwich City in the showpiece, where he could only be beaten via a deflection, and relegation a few weeks after, he was still voted Player of the Year for 1984-85 and made captain for his final game before moving to Manchester United.

Turner’s sheer consistency was remarkable – in his last two seasons on Wearside he made 101 consecutive appearances, whilst he also holds the joint record for successive clean sheets alongside Teddy Doig and Jimmy Montgomery.

Those shutouts helped him to fifth in the list of most clean sheets for the club, whilst the move to Old Trafford netted Sunderland a joint record fee for the time – all stats that put Turner up there with the very best goalkeepers to have ever played for the club during a Roker career that began 42 years ago today.


Chris Turner

Born:

Sheffield, 15 September 1958

SAFC debut:

Sunderland 1 (Rowell 24)

Oldham Athletic 2 (Steel 3, Stainrod 59)

Anglo-Scottish Cup, Roker Park 11 August 1979

Final SAFC appearance:

Sunderland 1 (Wallace 21)

Ipswich Town 2 (Wilson 17, 89)

Canon League Division One, Roker Park 11 May 1985

Total appearances for SAFC:

223 (+ 1 as sub)

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