Opinion: The Turton-igma

Amidst all of the transfer drama last week, defender Ollie Turton signed a new one-year deal to extend his stay at Blackpool for a fourth term. We digest the stats and fan reaction to the deal to work out whether or not it should be seen as good news.

Since arriving from Crewe, Turton has featured 120 times, netting 3 times. He’s the second-longest serving player at Bloomfield Road, behind Nathan Delfouneso. Neil Critchley is the fourth permanent manager that Turton has played under during his time at the club, having been originally brought to the club in 2017 by Gary Bowyer. He’s been a consistent servant to the club during a period of heavy uncertainty and lack of continuity, having been a regular starter at right-back, centre-back and even sometimes slotting in at left-back or defensive midfield. So why the mixed reaction to his contract extension and why have the fans just not quite fully taken to him yet?

Lacking Glitz and Glamour

Blackpool have had quite the week on the transfer front. Social media went into a frenzy with the signings of CJ Hamilton and Jerry Yates only a few hours apart, with calls that signings like this will help propel Blackpool to League One success in 2020/21. Sandwiched in between these two relatively big-money transfers was the news of Turton’s new deal.

Whilst Hamilton and Yates were treated in the same vein as you would when purchasing two new fancy Ferraris, Turton’s contract signing was your VW Polo passing its MOT. The car that you need for quick trips to the shops and hides away in the garage whilst the sparkling new supercars take all the limelight. But everyone needs one of those, don’t they?

Comparing the Social Stats

Below compares the announcement tweet from the club on each new signing, indicating the amount of noise created from each deal:

New signing Jerry Yates: 305 Retweets, 976 Likes

New signing CJ Hamilton: 180 Retweets, 706 Likes

Contract extension for Ollie Turton: 40 Retweets, 387 Likes

Using social media stats may seem like a bit of a throwaway metric, but it’s a great gauge for fan reaction and often perfectly encompasses the feeling of the fans. Whilst the two new lads have generated excitement and engagement, Turton signing on the dotted line was met with an air of nonchalance.

These stats were backed up with the replies to the news. From “Ok as back up. Not convinced he’s good enough for starting 11” to “Announce Hamilton”, there was not the adulation you may expect for a player who’s played over 100 games for the club at League One level.

Mr Consistent?

When analysing Turton’s overall impact on the side last season, we looked at how he performed in comparison with other defenders who were at the club last year, in addition to new signing Marvin Ekpiteta who was in League Two with Leyton Orient last term.

Stats from sofascore.com

These findings probably open up further debate with regards to how Blackpool will setup defensively next year, but putting that aside, it was interesting to note that Turton held the lowest average rating for the season, at 6.72. Interestingly, it was Ryan Edwards who came out on top for this score.

The most comparable player to Turton would probably be James Husband, who fulfilled similar duties on the left side of defence. Husband outperformed Turton defensively from an interception and clearance p/game perspective, while Turton does have a higher passing accuracy percentage – though completed a significantly higher percentage of short-range passes in his own half. This may suggest that he’s less likely to take a risk and lose possession.

It’s all well and good to be steady and consistent, which is actually something that is often thrown against Turton; the “he’s very steady” line suggesting limitations and a low ceiling for creativity which gets us fans off our seats.

Ultimately, according to these stats, Turton’s output in the 2019/20 season was below his counterparts, and the standards he probably sets himself. This is something that was reflected in fans’ reaction to the extension – both on social media and beyond. To maintain his level of involvement in this new squad, which is shaping up to be the strongest Turton has been involved in during his time at the club so far, he will simply need to improve.

Jack of All Trades?

Another aspect of the ‘Turton-igma” is the consideration of his ability to play in various positions, or indeed his inability to hold one position down, depending on which camp you sit in.

From Turton’s heat-map below, you can see he spent most of the year playing on the right side of a back three, with some appearances at right-wing back. It’s interesting to see how far forward he got so frequently, which is where his limitations typically become apparent.

19/20 heat map from sofascore.com

In a centre-back pairing, he lacks height and the physique to compete with some of the stronger strikers in the league. As a right-wing back, it’s when he ventures into the opposition half to link up with midfield and attack that his limitations start to show. But in a back-three, Turton is strong enough on the ball, defensively competent and tactically astute enough to fulfil a role that Blackpool have few alternatives.

When he’s got taller, stronger centre backs alongside him, and someone like Liam Feeney supporting on his right to lead on the creativity. Turton slots well into the back line and rarely looks out of place. Critchley’s choice in formation and playing style will surely lead to what makes or breaks the rest of Turton’s time with Pool.

The Contract

The most intriguing aspect of the deal was the actual terms of the contract itself. At 27, you would have expected Turton to hold out for the best financial deal of his career, as he enters his prime. You would also think stability was a priority, holding out for a 2-3 year deal. Given that this contract is only a 12-month deal suggests one of two things.

It’s completely feasible that Turton’s options were limited in the end, and Pool’s offer of a one-year extension was the best one on the table. As we enter a post-Covid market, players hold less power than they would have done previously, as financial restraints and rumours of salary caps do the rounds.

Alternatively, maybe Turton believes in Blackpool and was desperate to stay. Maybe he believes in what Critchley is building, going into the new season. By staying around, Ollie may believe his own value will increase if he is to contribute to a successful, potentially even promotion winning campaign, so by taking this 12-month deal he is increasing his chance for a pay off this time next year, either with Blackpool or elsewhere.

From the club’s standpoint, this contract highlights that nowadays, smart business decisions are being made. Turton is coming off the back of a relatively disappointing campaign, so a 12-month deal is a win-win. It allows Critch to get a further look into somebody who previous managers have consistently depended upon. If he impresses, you would expect the club to enter negotiations into a longer term deal early in the season. If not, there is no commitment to him in what’s shaping up to be an exciting, progressive period for the club. It also highlights how Blackpool will not necessarily be bowled over by agents and will stick to their guns on contract negotiations (see Jay Spearing for reference).

Why So Negative?

OT may not be the big, commanding 6,4″ centre half that Marvin is, or the flying wing-back delivering 15-20 assists and goals that Feeney could chip in with, but he has been involved in 40 games a season for Pool on average every year since 2017. Taking into account the abrupt end to the most recent campaign, that ups his average even higher. That is serious contribution to what has been a relatively solid League One outfit in that time.

The one big question mark that fans have had with the Seasiders’ recruitment in the Sadler era has been the lack of continuity through each transfer window, and the sheer volume of players entering the rotating door. This is simply an unsustainable model long-term. Keeping key members of a core squad is vital for morale, team cohesion and continuity. Surely this contract extension should be welcomed by fans for this alone.

Summary

All in all, this feels like a low-risk, mid-reward deal for what it represents in the bigger picture. Blackpool continue to conduct business in an intelligent, professional manner, and players are happy to extend their stay as more exciting players come through the door.

As Critchley shapes his squad to hopefully make the step up into the Championship over the next couple of seasons, it makes sense to keep a committed professional in and around the squad, and with all of these new faces coming into Squires Gate, Turton can be one of the men to welcome the new lads in and let them know what to expect. We see this as a positive deal and fingers crossed, he can repay the faith shown by the new board by making the step up this year.

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Image credit: @blackpoolfc on Twitter

2 thoughts on “Opinion: The Turton-igma

  1. Turton was more effective under TMcP than Grayson – read into that what you will. With Critchley already knowing Turton from their time at Crewe, it isn’t hard to see why he has been re-signed. Or, perhaps we could conclude that the time it took between OT becoming out of contract and eventually re-signing that he couldn’t find a better offer elsewhere.

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    1. Highly likely that he couldn’t find anywhere else yes – especially in these uncertain times. For him I would see it as an opportunity to lay down what he can do and win himself a better contract. I’m glad Blackpool are learning and not just handing out 2-3 year contracts for everyone. Good business seemingly win-win for both parties involved.

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