‘It blows my mind’ – US Portsmouth boss Glenn Turnbull on the impact of his club’s remarkable FA Vase run
US Portsmouth boss Glenn Turnbull reflected on the impact his club’s stunning FA Vase run has had on his life and confessed: ‘It blows my mind.’
USP host Flackwell Heath on Saturday for a place in the semi-finals the following weekend and the chance to stand just 90 minutes from a dream Wembley final.
Progressing through six rounds has ensured the Wessex League Division 1 club are the talk of the Portsmouth area non-league scene.
But Turnbull - who works for BAE Systems - insists the scale of USP’s achievement goes far beyond just the local footballing community.
‘It feels bigger than just Portsmouth,’ he said.
‘I had a letter on my desk on Monday from the Naval Base Commander wishing us well and saying how proud of us they were.
‘BAE Systems sent a message out on their App with a picture of me and (son) Elliott, who’s an apprentice here - they’ve got 35,000 employees globally.
‘A journalist from the Non-League Paper phoned me up in the week for a half-hour chat, and it still blows my mind that a radio station would want to speak to me on a Monday evening.
‘I’m just a guy from North End who has got lucky with a group of players who can play football the way I like to play it.
‘It’s all a bit surreal.’
For the third weekend running, that group face the biggest game of their history. First, Christchurch were beaten on penalties and then Tavistock were shocked 3-1 in west Devon.
Turnbull is happy the fixture list has turned out this way.
‘There isn’t a lot of time to think about the magnitude of the occasions,’ he said. ‘It’s pretty much all we can think about anyway, so imagine that spread out over a few months.
‘I just hope the lads aren’t over-awed and are allowed to play a bit. I hope they do themselves proud and, God willing, they can do themselves proud the week after.
‘If they don’t do that, I think they’ll always look back and think ‘what if?’
Turnbull also feels the fact Vase ties are being played behind closed doors is suiting his team - very few of whom have ever played in front of large crowds.
‘If they’d had 1,000 in at Tavistock you could have had a different outcome,’ he reckoned.
‘At five to three the lads were quite nervous, but about five past three they started to believe.
‘We were told the Tavistock fans could be intimidating - you can imagine they’d have started screaming at the first bad foul.
‘Some of my players are used to playing in front of three men and a dog - they used to get more people watching them on a Sunday morning for the Dog & Duck than playing for US.’
Turnbull’s main selection dilemma could revolve around whether to recall Josh Hazell at left wing-back in place of his son Elliott.
Hazell played against Christchurch but was ruled out of the Tavistock tie after picking up a second booking of the tournament.
The boss must also decide whether to go without a recognised keeper on the bench, as they did against Christchurch.
US have a handful of players walking a disciplinary tightrope this weekend, with Dec Seiden, Harry Sargeant, Tom Cain and Sonny Harnett-Balkwill knowing a booking will rule them out of the sem-final should they get there.’
Turnbull, assistant Fraser Quirke and coach Paul Barton watched a video of Flackwell’s fourth round tie at Lancing earlier this week.
They have also received some scouting reports and the boss said: ‘They’ve all been pretty much consistent. We think we know where their threats will come from, and where we can hurt them.’
As usual, Turnbull will stick with the 3-5-2 formation he has preferred throughout his managerial career. ‘We like to think what we do is effective, and the stats show that.
‘That’s the way I like to play, it gives us real options when we’re attacking.’