This Week: 17 years ago

David Hardman 11/02/2023 4comments  |  Jump to last

This week will focus on the blasts from the pasts of Iain Turner and James Beattie.

Blackburn Rovers, managed by former Everton striker Mark Hughes, came to Goodison to face the in-form blues. In the league, anyway. A few days earlier, they’d been thrashed at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup 4th round replay, a night best remembered for Richard Wright injuring himself in the warm up by falling over a sign. 3rd choice Iain Turner was called upon – it could be considered bad that he had zero time to prepare, or good that there was also no time to get nervous. Although Everton shipped 4 goals that night, I can’t recall if he was at fault for any of them.

Then came the visit of Blackburn Rovers. With Richard Wright and Nigel Martyn still out of action, this time Turner had a few days knowing that he’d be in the line-up, but after just 9 minutes, perhaps nerves or inexperience got the better of him – Blackburn played the ball upfield, the only player in the vicinity of where the ball was landing was his team mate Alan Stubbs, but still, Turner came rushing out of the penalty area. This caused confusion as Stubbs didn’t expect him to be so far out headed the ball towards the box, thinking it would be a simple back pass. There probably wasn’t enough weight on it to even carry it to the goal line, but Turner, perhaps having lost his bearings or perhaps panic or even just instinct, stuck an arm out to get the ball under control with his hand.

A red card followed. One of the few times I’ve paid attention to the post-match analysis on MOTD, where they pointed out that the rules state it’s only a red card if the deliberate hand-ball prevents a certain goal or goalscoring chance. With no opposing players around and Stubbs’ backpass not exactly goalward bound, this was neither, and therefore the straight red really shouldn’t have happened.

4th choice John Ruddy came on to keep goal for the rest of the game – MOTD also pointed out that it was probably the first time 2 goalkeepers had made their league debut for the same team in the same game! It certainly is since that year zero of 1992, not sure if it’s the first time in football history.

Anyway, the sending off riled the home crowd, who were further aggrieved to see 3 goals disallowed for what seemed to be borderline decisions. When I see the net bulge, my instinct has always been to look at the assistant referee to make sure the flag’s not up before celebrating – when James Beattie headed home, the entire ground seemed to do the same – there was a notable few seconds of silence before the crowd, having had enough celebrations killed by the officials that day, recognised that the goal stood and let rip.

All these years I’ve had it in my head that this goal came in the 2nd half after 3 disallowed goals. Having just checked an old match report, it turns out it was during the 1st half, after just 2 disallowed goals, the first of which was “scored” before the sending off. The 3rd and final disallowed effort came in the 2nd half.

Everton won 1-0. It gave them a return of 19 points from their last 7 league games and put them into the top half of the table for the first time since August, if not all season.

It’s funny that a routine 1-0 home win, in the middle of a mid-table season, against a respected but unformidable opponent, sticks in the mind. I think it was the atmostphere that day – such a clash would normally be played in front of an indifferent crowd, and that’s possibly how it was when the game started, but the perceived injustices made for such a raucous atmosphere. James Beattie commented after the game that it was 14 men against 10, but the crowd made up the other 4.

I think he got in hot water with the league over his comments but I couldn’t have put it better myself.

For a few months in the middle of the 2005-6 season, James Beattie was starting to look like a club record signing. Unfortunately he couldn’t sustain that form. His brilliant chip against Fulham in mid March ended up being his last competitive goal from open play for Everton. Although he didn’t score in the next game against Villa, he still had a good game, but then it was like someone hit the off switch on him. And on the entire team, as their only win in their final 7 games came against Middlesbrough’s youth team (Boro had reached the UEFA Cup Final about 40 hours before Everton’s visit, and the fixture pile up meant the game was still played on the Saturday afternoon – Steve McLaren just got on with it and even embraced the fact that, against Everton, they’d fielded a side made up entirely of local lads. A far cry from how today’s managers would react!). All Everton’s good work of climbing back into the top half was undone as they could only finish 11th.

While Everton improved in 06/07, James Beattie’s only goals came from the penalty spot. In 2007 he dropped down a division to join Sheffield United, where he rediscovered his goal scoring touch, but a return to the top flight with Stoke in 2009 saw him fade after a bright start. A goalless couple of years at Rangers followed before returning to his native Lancashire at Accrington Stanley, who he later managed. In more recent years he’s been assistant to his former Southampton team-mate Gary Monk at various clubs.


Back to 2006, and with Turner facing suspension and Wright and Martyn still injured, it left John Ruddy as their only available goalkeeper with the transfer window already closed. However, dispensation was given for this situation, and Everton were allowed to make an emergency loan signing, and drafted in Sander Westerveld for a couple of games.

With Martyn retiring and Wright just not making the grade as first choice in the long term, Tim Howard arrived in the summer of 2006 to solve their goalkeeping problems.

The anger at the referee’s decision to send Turner off seemed to take attention away from the fact the Turner had needlessly come charging out of the box and even more needlessly handled the ball. Worse was to follow a year later. With Howard’s first season being treated as a loan signing, the American was unable to play against his parent club. Wright played in Everton’s 0-3 defeat at Old Trafford in November 2006, but Turner was preferred in the home encounter in April. With Everton 2-0 up mid-way through the 2nd half and good value for it, Turner made 2 misjudgements that allowed United back into the game and they would ultimately win 4-2. The 3 points the took from Goodison that day enabled them to clinch the title a week later, with a game to spare, and arguably had ramifications at the bottom, as the champions lost their last game at home to West Ham, enabling the visitors to stay up at Sheffield United’s expense.

That game against Man United was Turner’s last game for Everton, but he only left in 2011 – I’ve got a feeling the club even offered him a new contract after the United game, just to show that there were no hard feelings! While Liverpool’s treatment of Lois Karius in 2018 was despicable, as ever, “too nice” Everton went way too far the other way.

I’ve had to look Turner up to find out that he spent the last few years of his Everton contract out on loan at various clubs. The last of these, Preston North End, took him on in 2011, hoping he could fulfil to the potential that Moyes must have seen in him when he signed him in 2003. He actually emulated Tim Howard by scoring directly from a goal kick! Unfortunately, just as he looked to be rebuilding his career, an injury saw him sidelined and PNE sign a replacement during his spell out, and after a further injury, his contract wasn’t extended beyond the first year. When he recovered, a few more short term moves followed before ending his career in non-league with Tranmere and then Southport. I can only apologise if this article sounds harsh on him - while it didn't happen for him at Everton, I bear no ill-will towards him and was hoping I could report on a happy ending to his story.

A happier epilogue did happen for the other goalkeeper who featured that day, John Ruddy. He helped Norwich get promoted to and then stay in the Premier League, impressing enough to earn a call-up to England’s Euro 2012 squad (sadly, a broken finger meant he was unable to be part of it - there seems to be a theme for these goalkeepers all being accident or injury prone)


But I'm please to report that 17 years after his debut against Blackburn, he’s still going. He made a couple of appearances in the Premier League for Wolves last season, and at the time of writing is first team regular for Championship side Birmingham City.

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Reader Comments (4)

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Eddie Ng
1 Posted 13/02/2023 at 19:52:15
A game that seems to define the sorry football career of Iain Turner...bright young goalie but ultimately failed to make it.
Dennis Stevens
3 Posted 15/02/2023 at 02:26:06
I was at the match mentioned away to Chelsea & also the home match versus Blackburn Rovers. I vividly recall the atmosphere changing at Goodison at the rather severe sending off of a rookie 'keeper. I just knew we would go on to win that match. In much the same way I just knew we would lose the '85 Cup Final the moment Moran was sent off!

I have to say I was always more impressed with what I saw of Ruddy than Turner & felt we let him go a bit too easily, even if he was unlikely to become first choice for Everton.

Paul Hughes
4 Posted 15/02/2023 at 09:32:38
Gosh, 17 years ago. I was at that game. I sit in-line with the Gwladys St 18-yard box, so the Stubbs/Turner cock-up was right in front of me. I can remember watching it unfold almost in slow motion.
Beattie did leap like a salmon at the Park End to score the winner.
I'd forgotten about all the disallowed goals, but do remember the ground was rocking.
Tony Abrahams
5 Posted 15/02/2023 at 10:18:32
During lockdown Liverpool FC, put up a flag that wrote nobody does it better, with regards to their supporters. They are not called the self-proclaimers for nothing, are they!

During lockdown Liverpool FC, finally lost their unbeaten record that had stretched for 68 games, against Burnley, and suddenly they were missing their supporters, more than any other set of fans. You couldn’t make it up, but they could.

When I saw you writing about this game David, I instinctively remembered it because of the noise inside Goodison Pk, that day.

Goodison Pk, has saved Everton, many times, and we need it to start saving us again🤞

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