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AFC TOTTON HAVE SWOOPED to seal the signature of highly-rated attacking midfielder Joe Turner, following his departure from National League South club Tonbridge Angels.

The 30-year-old Turner, who can play in the No.10 role, on the left wing or as a striker, brings a wealth of high-level non-league football experience after spending the last six years with the Kent-based club, for whom he made a total of 261 appearances and scored 67 goals – as well as contributing 54 assists – since joining from Kingstonian in August 2017.

He scored on his Tonbridge debut in a 2-0 win against Brightlingsea, and just four years later he was celebrating goal No.50 for The Angels with a superb strike in a 3-1 victory at Hungerford Town. Turner was an integral part of the Tonbridge team that won promotion from the Isthmian League Premier Division to the National League South in 2019, and he is the only player in the club’s history to have won their Player of the Year award three times.

Turner began his footballing career as a 15-year-old with Farnborough-based Cove FC in the Combined Counties League. He then spent a season with Knaphill before enrolling at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, and it was while playing for the university’s football team that he was spotted by Hampton & Richmond.

At the age of 21, he represented the England Universities team and was approached by Wealdstone, who had just won promotion to the Conference South. He was on the move again the following season, though, signing for Metropolitan Police in 2015, where he remained for a year-and-a-half.

Kingsmeadow was Turner’s next port of call, when he signed for Kingstonian during the period they were ground-sharing with AFC Wimbledon. During the British summer, he spent four months playing in New Zealand for Richmond Athletic, which he describes as “an absolutely amazing experience.” Despite offers to play for Tasman United and Wellington Phoenix (who compete in Australia’s A-League), he decided to return to Kingstonian.

However, while he had been away there had been a change of management, resulting in a different vibe at the club and Turner felt that he didn’t figure in the new manager’s long-term plans. So, after a lengthy conversation with Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm, he sealed the move to Longmead where he spent six very happy years, despite the interruptions caused across the whole non-league football scene by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Tonbridge is similar to AFC Totton in terms of the work they do within the local community and how they try to be more than just a football club,” Joe explains.

“I had a great time there and really enjoyed playing for those fans. If you play where you are happiest, that helps to bring the best out of you and that was certainly the case throughout my time at Longmead.”

During The Angels’ promotion-winning season of 2018/19, achieved via the Play-Offs, Turner struck a career single-season’s best total of 19 goals from left midfield, as well as claiming the Player of the Year, Manager’s Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year gongs.

Steve McKimm was replaced in the Tonbridge hotseat by Jay Saunders in May 2022, and the new boss made it clear that he was keen to keep Turner in his squad. The team finished ninth in the National League South table last season, achieving their highest ever placing in the English Football League Pyramid.

“We probably should have done even better, to be fair – we only missed out on the Play-Offs by four points,” laments Turner.

During pre-season, Saunders persuaded Turner to sign on for another year. But as the 2023/24 campaign gathered momentum, the experienced attacking midfielder found his first team opportunities restricted and eventually decided that it was time for a fresh start elsewhere.

“What impressed me about AFC Totton was the accommodation of everyone involved in the process. I was invited to come to a match and take a tour of the facilities. The pitch is lovely, the ground and other facilities here are second to none at this level of football, and everyone I spoke to who had any knowledge of AFC Totton spoke very highly of the club and the way things are run here.

“I spoke to Jimmy Ball, which gave me the chance to understand his approach to the game. He strikes me as a similar type of manager to Steve McKimm, so I think I’m going to enjoy playing under him. All of those factors combined just made me feel like this was the right move for me at this point in my footballing career, and I’m really pleased to have got the deal done and can’t wait to get out there and show what I can do.”

Prompted to compare his style of play to a famous player with whom Stags fans would be familiar, Turner, who lives in Godstone in Surrey and works as the Head of Year in a private school in Oxshott, chooses the ex-Leeds United, Liverpool and Australian national team winger, Harry Kewell.

“I’m an all-action, high-energy attacking player. I’m a whole-hearted competitor and a team player at both ends of the pitch. I’ve scored a few headers in my time so I’m decent in the air, but what I really like to do is to get the ball down, run with it and create chances. I can use either foot and I like to press when we’re out of possession.”

AFC Totton boss Jimmy Ball commented:

“I’m very pleased to get Joe to the club. He brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and leadership, along with being a very good attacking midfielder. He was very keen to join our club and come on this journey with us; he chose us over several clubs and I’m absolutely delighted he did. I’m looking forward to seeing him out on the pitch enjoying his football.”

By Ben Rochey-Adams

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