DAVID TURNBULL is preparing to return to his old stomping ground, playing in front of his once adoring public at Fir Park this Saturday for the first time since moving to Celtic. It is the away support though who he may still have to convince of his worth.

It has been quite a journey for the Wishaw man since breaking through at his boyhood club three years ago. His scintillating form attracted attention from Glasgow and south of the border too, before a move to Celtic collapsed at the last minute due to a potentially serious knee injury.

A year was then spent recovering from the subsequent preventative surgery back at Motherwell, before Celtic came back to the table. His £3m move was finally complete, but he came into Celtic in the most trying of circumstances.

By the time he forced his way into Neil Lennon’s starting XI last October, the pressure was already building as the quest for 10 in-a-row began to veer off track. The Covid-19 pandemic meant he would have to wait months before he played in front of a crowd.

But while that wouldn’t be what Turnbull had expected when signing up for the club, he himself managed to exceed the lofty expectations placed upon him by both his manager and the supporters watching on from home.

The 22-year-old was one of the few bright spots in a dark time for Celtic, hitting nine goals from midfield as well as racking up eight assists in his debut season in the green and white. But with that introduction, expectations were raised.

Turnbull would probably be the first to admit that he has yet to reach the high standards he set for himself last term since the summer. He has scored in just three games so far, a double against FK Jablonec in Europa League qualifying, a hat-trick against St Mirren in a 6-0 rout at Celtic Park as well as a long-range strike against Raith Rovers in the League Cup.

Those six goals have rather disguised some disappointing moments for Turnbull, none more so than the inexplicable error that led to Bayer Leverkusen’s opening goal in their 4-0 rout of Celtic Park.

Celtic, perhaps aware of the stick he has been taking, put out some of his stats from this season so far on their social media feeds that rather belied the narrative he has been struggling so far this term. But if that isn’t enough to satisfy some sections of the Celtic support, his former coach at Motherwell, Keith Lasley, has a potential solution.

“Listen, we’ll take him back if they don’t want him!” Lasley said. “We’re keeping the money though.”

On a serious note though, Lasley is surprised to hear that Turnbull has been on the receiving end of some criticism. But he is certain he has the fortitude to handle it, as evidenced by his recovery from his knee issue.

“I would say that’s harsh,” he said. “He made a great start at Celtic and was one of their top performers last season.

“I suppose it’s part and parcel of that step up and the scrutiny you expect at one of the Old Firm sides.

“David is still a young player, he’s still developing all the time. He’s still one of the best young players in the country.

“All players have to come through periods where they have to handle a little bit of stick, but one thing I do know is that David is very mentally strong, very level-headed with a very good family behind him.

“In my experience, he doesn’t let too much bother him, so I don’t think it will affect him. He’ll just continue to play his football and do what he does best.

“To show that fortitude to come through not only the physical side of his injury, but the mental side of dealing with how it happened and the timing of it, it was a lot to take in and deal with. But David did that superbly well.

“The strength he has shown to this point will stand him in good stead. It will anchor him almost, and make him appreciate what he does have and drive him to make the most of it.

“He’s well-equipped mentally to deal with that.”

Lasley is hoping though that Turnbull has a stinker on Saturday, as Motherwell look to get their impressive start to the campaign back on track after a defeat to Hearts before the international break.

It isn’t often that the Steelmen welcome Celtic to Fir Park looking down on them in the league table, and their assistant manager hopes it stays that way.

“If that’s still the case in May we’ll be quite happy, because we’ll be doing ok,” he said.

“It doesn’t happen very often, but every manager will tell you that the league table is nothing to get too excited about at this time of year. It’s about the next game, the next challenge, and for us that is Celtic at home.

“It will be a great occasion, a three o’clock kick off on a Saturday which is a novelty, and we want to bounce back after the disappointment of Tynecastle.

“We’ve had a decent start to the season and we want to continue that in what is going to be a tough game against Celtic.”