Evo-Stik Northern Premier League leaders Blyth Spartans have announced that influential midfielder Stephen Turnbull is to leave the club.
The former Hartlepool United midfielder is in his fourth spell with the Northumberland club, but that will come to an end as he takes up a position as an officer on a cruise ship.
Turnbull wrote his name into the Spartans illustrious FA Cup history in December 2013, when he scored with a sublime free kick in their Second Round tie against Hartlepool United.
That got the Spartans back on level terms, with winger Jarrett Rivers scoring late in the game to send the club into the Third Round and into a tie with Championship club Birmingham City.
Turnbull will leave the club in February to take up his new position and speaking to the club’s official website he revealed that he will do so with a heavy heart.
Turnbull admitted: “I love it at Blyth, but I’ve got a job as Third Officer of the Watch on a cruise ship and, on February 10, I’ll be flying out to New Zealand to start the cruise. I will be back from time to time, but it is largely the end of my football career.
“I’m devastated to be leaving Spartans, but I’ve trained for four years to do this and I have to give it my best shot.
“My brother Phil left full-time football to go into teaching and it was a big decision, but he says now it was the best one he ever made. We both have had to think about our futures.
“I have to say I was really upset after the game against Matlock. It was my last game at Croft Park and I was genuinely upset in the car going home.
“It’s the end of an era for me, but I hope to be in the squad on Saturday and next Tuesday.”
It was back in 2009 when Turnbull joined Spartans for the first time in his career.
Following his release from Gateshead he moved to Croft Park with the club flying high in the Conference North.
He left to join Harrogate Town in 2011, but returned for a second spell with Spartans in 2013.
A short stay with EBAC Northern League club Shildon was ended in 2014, as he moved back to Spartans and helped the club to a second place finish in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, when they were pipped to the title by a Darlington side containing his brother Phil.
Although by that time Stephen had left the club to take up a position on a cruise ship, before rejoining Spartans upon his return to the country at the start of the current season.
During his numerous spells with Spartans, Turnbull has built up a strong rapport with a club that is clearly close to him.
And as his departure was announced he paid tribute to a number of key figures around the club.
“I’d like to give massive thanks to the Blyth fans and the board of directors, who have given me their continued support over all the spells I’ve had at Croft Park. Blyth is a magnificent club.
“I’ve totally loved my football here. My time at the club has given me my greatest memories in football and, of course, our FA Cup run that saw us play Hartlepool United and Birmingham City was unbelievable.
“That run was all down to Tom [Wade] and I’d like to thank him hugely. He enabled me to enjoy my football again and I loved playing under him.
“I must also say how much I’ve enjoyed playing with the current squad – Robbie [Dale], Hooksy [Neil Hooks], Nipa [Daniel Maguire], Hutchy [Ryan Hutchinson] and the rest of the lads.
“I must also say thanks and good luck to the new management trio of Alun [Armstrong], Daz [Darren Holloway] and Hooksy, who are doing an excellent job. They can win the league this season without me.”
Spartans’ general manager Ian Evans hailed the midfielder as he spoke to the club’s official website saying “First of all, may I wish ‘Twinny’ all the best in his new job. It is a job that he could not turn down and the club fully accept his decision.
“Secondly, the club wish to go on record in thanking him for his tremendous service during his three separate periods at Croft Park.
“He has written his name in to Blyth Spartans’ – and indeed FA Cup – history with ‘that’ goal he scored against Hartlepool, but we should never forget his all-round contribution to the club.
“Stephen has never given less than 100 percent in any game and was a joy to watch as he controlled many a game from midfield. A truly classy and committed player.
“We wish him the very best for the future and I’m sure all Spartans fans will do too!”
Article: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Quotes: Phil Castiaux (www.blythspartans.com)
Images: Reuters Media (Action Images)