Burslem, Staffordshire born outside left Joe Turner began his football career with Newcastle Swifts in 1893 and played for local Stoke-on-Trent club Dresden United in 1894.
In the spring of 1895, Charles Robson, the newly appointed secretary-manager of Southampton St. Mary’s, and Alfred McMinn, one of the club committee, visited The Potteries in search of new players to strengthen the team ready for their second season in the Southern League. McMinn was a native of Staffordshire and was “most persuasive on his home turf”. On this trip, Robson and McMinn signed six players: Turner, Jack Farrell, Samuel Meston and Willie Naughton from Stoke, Watty Keay from Derby County and Alf Wood from Burslem Port Vale, as well as recruiting Stoke’s long-serving trainer, Bill Dawson. The Saints committee were anxious to secure their services and signed then before the Football League season was over. Port Vale and Stoke lodged a complaint with the Football Association about “poaching”, and an emergency F.A. meeting was held at Sheffield, resulting in The Saints being severely censured for negligence. St Mary’s were ordered to pay their own costs, plus £4 6s 3d to Stoke and £1 13s to Port Vale. McMinn was suspended for a year and Dawson for a month. Wood’s registration with St Mary’s was cancelled (shortly afterwards he moved to Stoke).
Turner joined The Saints on a wage of thirty shillings per week and made his Southern League debut for Southampton in the opening match of the season, a 1-0 defeat at champions Millwall Athletic. The Saints started the season with five away matches, four of which were defeats. Eventually, Turner and Watty Keay formed a good partnership on the left, with Turner’s “electrifying speed” on the wing providing the crosses for Jack Farrell, and under trainer Dawson’s guidance, the team’s form improved and there were only two further League defeats as the team ended the season in third place, with Turner having contributed six goals. Turner also played in all five FA Cup matches, contributing five goals, as the Saints reached the First Round proper, going out to eventual winners, Sheffield Wednesday.
The following season, The Saints forward line was boosted by the signing of Bob Buchanan from Woolwich Arsenal, with the defence being strengthened by the signing of goalkeeper George Clawley from Tottenham Hotspur. Southampton exceeded the achievements of the two previous seasons, winning the Southern League Championship without losing a match, with Turner scoring 12 goals from 19 League appearances. In the FA Cup, Turner was ever-present, scoring six goals from seven matches, helping the Saints reach the Second Round, where they went out to Newton Heath after a replay.
Turner remained at Southampton for one further season, helping them retain their Southern League Championship and to reach the FA Cup semi final where they took eventual winners Nottingham Forest to a replay. The replay at Crystal Palace was played in a blizzard. After a scoreless first half (in which Turner missed a penalty for Southampton), in the second half The Saints were on top when, with ten minutes left to play, referee John Lewis stopped the match for a time and the players left the pitch. No sooner had the game restarted than the weather worsened but the referee decided that the match should continue. Clawley had his eyes “choked with snow” and conceded two goals in the final minutes of the game. Despite Southampton’s protests the F.A. decided that the result should stand, perhaps not surprising as Lewis was an eminent member of the F.A. board.
In the summer of 1898, Turner returned to the Potteries when, along with Farrell and Clawley, he joined First Division Stoke, making his Football League debut against Derby County that September. In his first season at the Victoria Ground, he helped Stoke reach twelfth place in the League and he played in the 1899 FA Cup semi final where Stoke were beaten by a Steve Bloomer hat-trick for Derby County at Molineux. The following season he only missed a handful of matches, with Stoke’s League position improving marginally, ending in ninth place, but after 15 goals in 60 appearances Turner left Stoke to join Everton in April 1900.
He made his Everton debut in a 4-0 victory over Manchester City before the end of the season, scoring twice in the match, and was a regular for The Toffees during 1900-01, going on to make 33 appearances that season, scoring 7 goals. In February 1901, he was a member of the Everton side that put Southampton out of the FA Cup, when he capped an impressive performance with Everton’s third goal.
In the summer of 1901, Turner returned to Southampton, where he replaced Alf Milward on the left with his unrelated namesake, Archie Turner, on the right. He finished the League season with nine goals from twenty appearances. In the FA Cup, he scored three goals in eight cup ties as Southampton made their way to the 1902 FA Cup Final. In the Final against Sheffield United, the first match at The Crystal Palace was drawn 1-1, taking the match to a replay, also held at The Crystal Palace a week later. The replay was played in bitterly cold conditions and Saints were soon a goal down, but following smart work from Turner, Albert Brown equalised on the 70th minute with a shot from distance. United regained the lead with six minutes to go following an error by England goalkeeper, Jack Robinson, and hung on to claim the trophy.
In 1902-03, Turner scored 14 goals from 26 appearances including a hat-trick in a 6-0 victory over West Ham United in the final match of the season as The Saints took the Southern League Championship for the fifth time in seven years, and the following season they made it six Championships in 8 years, although Turner’s skills were on the wane and, by the end of the season, despite having scored 5 goals in 22 matches, he had lost his regular place first to local youngster Fred Mouncher and then to Archie Turner’s younger brother, Harry.
Turner left the Saints in the summer of 1904 to join fellow Southern League side New Brompton (now Gillingham) having scored 74 goals in 153 appearances across his two spells with Southampton, and he stayed a single season in Kent before joining Northampton Town in 1905. He then returned to the Southampton area to play non league football for Eastleigh Athletic in 1906 and South Farnborough Athletic in 1907 before his eventual retirement.