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"The club is in a good place, long may that continue."

An in-depth interview with midfielder, Phil Turnbull.

Featuring 20 times so far this season in all competitions, Phil Turnbull has been an ever-present amongst the Dunston midfield. The 37-year-old made over 300 appearances for Gateshead in the National League and spent a combined six years at both Darlington and South Shields.

Turnbull is now in his third season at The UTS Stadium and has played a pivotal role in the recent seven-game winning run, stretching back to mid-November. The veteran midfielder spoke to the club about the season so far, and the upcoming test tomorrow afternoon as we welcome the league leaders Stockton Town.

"Yes, we are on a great run. The confidence is high and when you start to put a run together, you almost forget how to get beat. It’s the same vice-versa though, when you lose a few, you think you’ll never win again.

"I’ve enjoyed it so far, but we need to maintain it and try and win this league. We have a great team, the best by some distance since I’ve been here, the club is in a good place and long may that continue," he said.

Dunston's most recent game was on Wednesday night away at Cleethorpes Town. After a blistering opening 20 minutes, Dunston found themselves 3-0 up and ultimately recorded a 3-1 win to climb up to third in the Pitching In Northern Premier League East table.

Once again pulling the strings, Turnbull produced the assist for Josh King's goal and played a vital role in the opening goal scored by Richard Coulson. Turnbull's performance throughout the 90 minutes also saw him claim his second Man of the Match award in five games.

Turnbull against Ossett United (16/12/23)
Image Credit - Beauty Time Photography
"Midweek nights away from home are always difficult. The lads are having to get away from work and there’s the long distance on a bus, but on Wednesday we were on it from minute one. We have a mature group with a good mentality, no complacency because although we are doing okay, we have achieved nothing yet."
Turnbull said.

"We keep taking it one game at a time and we pride ourselves on being the hardest working team in the league. We have good players who can do the nice things, but most importantly, we have 11 players who put a shift in. 

"There are no passengers being carried in the team. If there were, they wouldn’t be playing. Jon [McDonald] made that clear from day one of pre-season. We play as a collective group and, if you are going to be successful, that is 100% the way it needs to be."

Looking back at this stage last season, Dunston were sat on 30 points after 18 games. This season sees the club nine points better off after 18 games and Turnbull has credited a few reasons as to why this is.

"Quite simply, recruitment. A few people need to take credit for that but ultimately, the credit comes down to Jon. Firstly, the sponsors for putting the money in like UTS Engineering so that there is a budget for our chairmen. Secondly, to Billy and Cleughy for trusting Jon with the budget and allowing him to bring in the players, and then thirdly, to Jon for bringing in the players he did.

"Individually, each one has improved us. You’ve got players like Kingy, Maskell and JJ who the club can build around for years to come. Macca has come in at left back and has been absolutely superb, Jack has come in at centre back and plays brilliant week-in, week-out, and Robbo has been a revelation, the perfect number 10 in non-league football.

"Carrzy has been top class and is a great character in the changing room, and Lamby has added pace and quality to the side. It’s been very good recruitment. Normally, if you sign so many, they don’t all work out, but it couldn’t have gone any better!" Turnbull added.

With many years of experience under his belt playing hundreds of games at a high level, we asked Turnbull how much he's enjoying his football at the moment at this stage of his career.

"Yes, I’m an experienced player these days even though I still only look 24! But I’d like to think the lads know they can rely on me to do my bit and to also be there to help them if needed.

Belper Town (A) 26/08/23
Image Credit - Beauty Time Photography
I think my role in the team is to calm things down a bit when things are frantic, and I believe that I can still do my bit when I am surrounded by good players. Everywhere you look in this team we have good players, which makes me look a better player too.

"The way I play is massively complimented when we have pace and energy in the team and that’s what we have. Football is always more enjoyable when you’re winning, so being in a good side means that I can enjoy my football in my remaining twilight seasons. 

"Jon and his coaching staff are great to work under. I think Jon manages people in his professional career and you can tell. It’s not a one size fits all mentality; he manages me and Baxter a little bit differently and I respect him for that. He knows that he can trust us." Turnbull said.

Potentially the biggest game of the season awaits on Saturday as we host the league leaders, Stockton Town. The Anchors currently find themselves ten points ahead of Dunston however, Dunston have four games in hand and will be looking to close the gap with a win on Saturday.

"Saturday is a massive game. To be honest, if it wasn’t us going up as champions, the next team I’d want it to be is Stockton. I have a lot of respect for them as a club. Their manager is a classy bloke and the players I have played with who play for them are all good friends who I have a lot of respect for. In fairness, they play football the right way which I admire too. 

"If we win on Saturday, it will be a massive result because, in all fairness, if you finish above Stockton this season then you’re winning the league. Three points on Saturday, in what is a six-pointer, would be a massive step towards finishing above them come the end of the season. 

"We are in good form, and we are also at home, so we look forward to taking the game to them and testing ourselves against a very good side!"

It's the biggest game in non-league in the North East this weekend. Come and join as we look to close the gap on the league leaders!

Adults (£10) | Concessions (£6) | U16 (£3) 

We will also be showing the Fulham vs Newcastle FA Cup game in the clubhouse from 7:00pm. 

By Callum Pattison

Published Friday 26th January 2024