Before Bob and Roy, there was Bert

The Lost Boyos return to Sweden to delve once again into some history of Welsh football influence overseas and look at the one of the greatest feats achieved by a Welsh football manager on foreign soil.

Herbert Gwyn ‘Bert’ Turner

LOST BOYO IN SWEDEN (Malmö FF, 1950-1954; Kalmar FF, 1955-56)

CLUBS: (as a player) Charlton Athletic (1933-1947), (as a manager) Malmö FF, Kalmar FF

WALES CAREER: 1936-1939, 8 caps

Turner’s Churchman’s Cigarette Card

Herbert Gwyn ‘Bert’ Turner was born in Caerphilly in 1909. In 1933, Turner joined Third Division South side Charlton Athletic. His time with the club coincided with one of the most successful periods in the London side’s history.

Turner was a full-back in the side that finished fifth in the 1933-34 season and then achieved promotion the following year by winning the title. The team of legendary manager Jimmy Seed finished the season a comfortable eight points clear of second-placed Reading, scoring 103 goals in the process.

Now in the Second Division, Charlton completed the impressive feat of back-to-back promotions. This time they finished second, a single point behind Manchester United, but that was enough for the team to be promoted to the First Division for the first time in their history.

The remarkable year-on-year progress continued, and, against all expectations, Charlton were again challenging for the title. Manchester City eventually claimed their first First Division trophy, but Charlton finished up in a hugely impressive second place, just three points back. In contrast, Manchester United, who had pipped Charlton to the Second Division title a year previously, went straight back down after finishing 21st.

From their promotion to the First Division until the suspension of league football during World War II, Turner and Charlton were one of the most consistent teams in the land, not once finishing outside the league’s top four (fourth in 1937-38 and third in 1938-39).

During this pre-war period, Turner also appeared eight times for Wales. He made his debut in a 1936 Home Championship game against England at Ninian Park which Wales won 2-1, and went on to play in all three 1936-37 Home Championship games. Wales won all three games that season to seal a fourth Championship triumph in ten years.

Turner also played throughout the 1937-38 tournament, but this time Wales finished last. They began with a win over Scotland, but were later defeated by England and Ireland. He played two further full internationals for Wales; against Ireland in a 3-1 win in the 1939 Championship, and a 1939 friendly defeat against France – the only time he played a full international with fellow Lost Boyo Dai Astley.The pair also featured in two War Time internationals together- both against England- and Turner played in a total of eight of Wales’ War Time matches.

Football returned in 1946, but there was no full league programme. That meant the highlight was that season’s FA Cup- the first to be played since 1938-39. Charlton, with Turner in the side, made it all the way to the final and the Welshman wrote his name into the history books.

As the game entered the final ten minutes, Turner miscued a clearance into his own net to give Derby County the lead. However, just a minute later, Turner equalised with a deflected free-kick of his own, thus becoming the first man to score in both ends in an FA Cup Final (something not repeated until Manchester City’s Tommy Hutchison in 1981. Gary Mabbutt did the same in 1987).

The game went to extra-time, but Derby won their first FA Cup with three goals for a 4-1 win (you can see some video highlights, including Turner’s goals here).

The following season was to be Turner’s last. As a full football league calendar returned, Charlton were unable to return to their pre-war highs, finishing 19th. They again made it to the FA Cup final and this time Charlton beat Burnley 1-0 to lift the trophy for the first time. There was, sadly, no place for the 37-year old Turner. He left Charlton having played 176 times for the Addicks, scoring three goals.

After his playing days were over, Turner moved to Sweden to coach Malmö FF. He arrived in Sweden during a golden period in the country’s footballing history. From the London Olympics in 1948 to the 1958 World Cup that they hosted, the Swedes were regularly competing for football’s biggest prizes.

Domestic football remained amateur in Sweden until the late 1960s, allowing the country to enter its top stars in the Olympics. The 1948 squad included the formidable Gre-No-Li trio of Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl, and Nils Liedholm, who would all later play together at AC Milan. In London, under the leadership of Englishman George Raynor, Sweden took the gold medal, defeating Yugoslavia 3-1 in the final. Gren scored two and Nordahl got his seventh of the tournament to finish as joint top scorer.

Four years later, Sweden collected another medal, this time bronze. Gren, Nordahl, and Liedholm were now ineligible having moved to Italy. Despite losing their star players, Sweden had another successful tournament and their run was only ended at the semi-final stage by the great Hungarian team of the era. In the bronze medal match, Sweden beat Germany 2-0.

Things went similarly well at the World Cup. In 1950, Sweden topped their group containing Italy and Paraguay and qualified for the final group stage. Despite losing their opening game 7-1 to hosts Brazil, Sweden managed to defeat Spain in their last match to finish third.

Eight years later, and on home soil, Sweden went one better. Raynor’s men made it all the way to the final before losing 5-2 to a Pele-inspired Brazil.

For most of this period, Malmö were the team to beat in Swedish domestic football. The club provided four players in the 1948 Olympics squad and had seven representatives in Brazil in 1950, although some, like Genoa-bound Stellan Nilsson, would never play under Turner.

Turner arrived in the spring of 1951, midway through the 1950-51 season. Malmö had gone through the previous season undefeated and were so far unbeaten that season, too. Turner’s men continued the run until the final league game of the season, but with the title already sealed, Malmö lost 1-0 to AIK Stockholm.

Despite failing to match the incredible league feat of 1949-50, the 1950-51 season could perhaps be said to have been even more successful, as Malmö added the Svenska Cupen to complete a domestic double. In that final, Malmö faced Djurgårdens who, amazingly, were also managed by a Welshman. Dai Astley had been a forward with Charlton Athletic, Aston Villa, and Derby County, among others, before moving into management with Internazionale in Italy. His team was defeated 2-1 by Turner’s thanks to a late goal from Walfrid Ek.

In 1951-52, Malmö were unable to retain either of their titles. In the league, they started strongly winning six straight matches, including a 5-0 win over Raa and a 6-1 victory against Örebro. However, they lost the seventh game against GAIS, and went on to lose a further four matches that season. Despite finishing strongly with five consecutive wins, Malmö finished second; IFK Norrköping took the title by just three points.

Success returned in the 1952-53 season. For once, Malmö started badly, losing four games in their first eight and ending the the first half of the season with seven wins, one draw, and four losses. However, the second half of the season was much better. Malmö  won nine- including a 6-0 triumph against defending Champions Norrköping- and were only beaten on the last day of the season by Djurgårdens. Again, the defeat did not stop Malmö recording their fifth Allsvenskan triumph and the second in three years under Turner.

Malmo’s 1953 double-winners (http://allsvenskamff.blogspot.kr/)

There was also another cup triumph. In the final, Malmö faced rivals Norrköping. They opened the scoring in the final, but then went two goals down. Nils-Ake Sandell got two second half goals to complete a second double in three years.

For the 1953-54 season, Malmö lost their most influential player. Full back Erik Nilsson made his Malmö debut in 1934 and was part of the first team for most of the next 19 years. Nilsson made 600 appearances for Malmö, as well as winning two Olympic medals (one gold in 1948, one bronze in 1952) and playing in the 1950 World Cup.

Without their talismanic leader, Malmö struggled. They won their opener, but a second win didn’t arrive until the tenth game of the season – a stretch that included a run of five consecutive defeats. Despite finishing strongly again- just one defeat in the last ten games, again on the final day against Djurgårdens- Malmö finished seventh. In a tight season, seventh place was just five points from the top.

Turner remained in charge for the following season. After, another disappointing first half of the season- five wins, two draws, and five losses- Turner left Malmö and was replaced by Austrian Pepi Stroh.

The Welshman remained in Sweden and managed the relegated Kalmar FF. Turner was unable to help the team return to the Allsvenskan- they finished the season second, one point behind IFK Malmö- and they remained in the Second Division until the mid-1970s. Turner left Kalmar in 1956.

Turner returned to the UK with two Swedish titles and two Swedish cups, but never managed professionally again. In a final coincidence, he moved to Kent where he ran a pub – just as his compatriot Astley had done. Bert Turner died in 1981.

For the full lowdown on Bert Turner’s time with Malmö, check out the MFF Statistik blog.

One thought on “Before Bob and Roy, there was Bert

  1. Interested to come across this. I met Bert at the pub in Manston when I was young – he was a relative of my mother – Having been born in Dartford, I am possibly now the most northerly supporter of Charlton in UK as I live near Manchester.

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