Chesterton, Staffordshire born centre half Arthur Turner began his football career with Downings Tileries in 1928 and played for Wolstanton PSA in 1929 before spending 1929-30 as an amateur on the books of West Bromwich Albion, without making a first team appearance for The Baggies. He signed amateur forms for Second Division Stoke City in November 1930, turning professional in February 1931, making his Football League debut at Cardiff City the following month. He was a strong defensive half back, good in the air and on the ground, reliable and influential. He won a Second Division Championship medal with Stoke in 1932- 33, in a season in which he was an ever present; the club history described him as one of “the real bedrocks” of the promotion side. He was appointed captain of Stoke, in a side that included Stanley Matthews, and in all competitions made 312 appearances for the club throughout the 1930’s, scoring 17 goals, being again an ever present in 1935-36 and 1936-37.
In February 1939 he was sold to Birmingham for a fee of £6,000, but his contribution in his first few months at Birmingham was not enough to prevent their relegation from the First Division, and after only 15 appearances his career was severely interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. During the War Turner played nearly 200 games for Birmingham, captaining them to the Championship of the wartime Football League South in 1946 and to the semi final of the first post war FA Cup, where they lost to eventual winners Derby County at Maine Road.
After 56 appearances for Birmingham either side of the War, in February 1948 Turner joined Third Division (North) Southport as player-manager; he played his last game of 28 appearances for them in October 1948 at the age of 39. He was appointed manager of Crewe Alexandra in October 1948 and stayed there for three years, returning to Stoke City as assistant manager in December 1951 under first Bob McGrory and then under Frank Taylor.
In November 1954 Turner replaced Bob Brocklebank as manager of former club Birmingham City. Brocklebank had assembled an excellent group of players including Jeff Hall, Len Boyd, Roy Warhurst, Eddy Brown, Peter Murphy, Alex Govan but they were not performing to their ability; Turner made them do so. When he joined, the club lay 12th in the Second Division, with one away win to their name; in the rest of the season they lost only once more away from home. They scored 92 League goals, their best goal return since the 19th century, with all five first choice forwards reaching double figures, inflicted a club record 9-1 defeat on Liverpool, and confirmed themselves as Second Division Champions with a 5-1 win away at Doncaster Rovers in May 1955.
Birmingham City’s official history rated 1955-56 as the club’s best season to date. Turner led the team he inherited to their highest League finish, sixth place in the First Division, only four points off runners up spot. They reached the 1956 FA Cup Final, losing to Manchester City 3-1 in the game best remembered for City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann playing the last 20 minutes with a broken bone in his neck. The following year he led them to the FA Cup semi final, only to lose 2-0 to Manchester United’s “Busby Babes” at Hillsborough. Also in 1956, Turner became the first manager to take an English club side into European competition when Birmingham City represented the city of Birmingham in the inaugural Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. They reached the semi final, going out to eventual winners Barcelona in a replay on a neutral ground after the original tie had finished 4-4 on aggregate.
His record in the transfer market was sound. He brought in England Under-23 international Dick Neal to replace Len Boyd, bought wingers Harry Hooper and future England player Mike Hellawell, and gave first professional contracts to youngsters Malcolm Beard and Colin Withers. In January 1958, Pat Beasley joined the club; Beasley had believed he was coming as Turner’s assistant, but chairman Harry Morris announced to the press that he was to be appointed joint manager. Turner, who found about this arrangement not from the club but from the press, threatened to resign; he was persuaded to stay “for the time being”, but finally left in September 1958.
Oxford United’s club website pinpoints the appointment of Turner as manager of the then Southern League side Headington United on New Year’s Day 1959 as a turning point in the club’s history. Not long afterwards, First Division Leeds United approached him to take over as their manager; though favourite to take the job, the Headington directors matched Leeds’ salary offer, and Turner chose to stay.
There was no automatic promotion into the Football League in those days; clubs had to be elected, and the likelihood of election depended largely on how the chairmen of other League clubs perceived them. That year, Turner persuaded the directors to change the name of the club to Oxford United, to increase public awareness of the club and to broaden its appeal. He employed more professional players, and brought in young players from top clubs. The likes of Graham Atkinson, Cyril Beavon and Maurice Kyle all joined from junior teams of bigger clubs and each went on to play over 300 games for Oxford United. Turner’s key signing, 20-year-old Ron Atkinson, joined from Aston Villa, was soon appointed captain, and went on to play 560 first team games for the club. The combination of Turner’s management and Atkinson’s captaincy brought two Southern League titles in two years, and when Accrington Stanley went bankrupt in 1962, Oxford United took their place in the Fourth Division.
Two years later Turner’s team eliminated Blackburn Rovers, who at the time lay second in the First Division, in the fifth round of the FA Cup. They thus became the first Fourth Division side to reach the sixth round, where they were narrowly beaten by Preston North End, 2-1 at The Manor Ground. In 1964-65, he led them to promotion from the Fourth Division, and three years later to the Third Division Championship. By this time the young players who had been the mainstay of Oxford’s rise through the divisions were ageing or retired. Turner had no money to strengthen the side for its Second Division campaign, and struggled with what he had. In April 1969, he became General Manager of the club, leaving the running of the team to Ron Saunders, and in February 1972 he was dismissed when the club admitted they were unable to afford to keep him in post.
Turner remained active in football into the 1980’s, being employed as a scout for Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday.