AS far as the FA Cup goes in his playing career, Ross Turnbull has a lot to be thankful for – although it was somewhat of a different story when he was growing up.
The north-easterner’s time at Chelsea may have seen him play second fiddle and collect bench splinters for the best part of four seasons, but as he reflects on his 29th birthday today, playing-wise he still has some choice memories to recollect when he is old and grey.
Turnbull was part of the Blues’ FA Cup-winning squads in 2010 and 2012; in the latter final against Liverpool he was an unused substitute and picked up a winners’ medal.
Just as he did in the Champions League final shortly after at the Allianz Arena when Chelsea stunned Bayern Munich in their own back garden.
The former Middlesbrough custodian’s final professional involvement with Chelsea was in another showpiece, when he was on the bench for the Londoners in their last-gasp Europa League victory over Benfica at the Amsterdam Arena in May, yet another end-of-season celebratory party to savour.
It is seriously pushing it to suggest Turnbull, who played just 19 times for the Stamford Bridge outfit, will sample another blue-riband cup final occasion in his career, but a few more tastes of the big-time would be nice.
Turnbull said: “I’ve been involved in winning the cup a couple of times and it’s massive.
“To be involved in a team who wins the FA Cup is unbelievable. To get your hands on the trophy is fantastic and I remember we had a good night out.
“The moments after when you celebrate on the pitch at Wembley are special, especially after a long season at the end of May and you have gone through some tough games to win it. That’s what you work for as a player.
“I felt very much a part of it at Chelsea and the club and the players made it that way.
“It’s difficult being a goalkeeper as outfield players can get more of a chance. But when I look back, I had some very special times there and we did the double in my first year there and I will remember that for the rest of my life.”
To progress and earn a crack at one of the big guns, his current club must dispose of Stevenage, no straightforward task given the stack of injuries currently afflicting Rovers.
If Rovers do that, then Bishop Auckland-born Turnbull has no doubt who his fourth-round draw of choice would be – boyhood idols Newcastle United, who have somewhat of a patent on cup tears over the years as the goalkeeper knows only too well.
He said: “As a young child growing up, you realise how big the competition is.
“I was a Newcastle fan when I was younger and had some pretty bad experiences in the cup there with them against Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea in the semi-final.
“For me, Newcastle in the next round at St James’ Park would be nice!”
He added: “Doncaster realistically won’t win the cup, but if we have a good run, the fans and the players will enjoy it and if we can draw one of the big boys away and have a good day out, that will be fantastic.
“You can only play what is in front of you and the draw has brought out Stevenage and it will be a tough game.
“The FA Cup brings out surprises and it’s a special competition; we just need a win to get some momentum and the longer you progress, the greater chance you have of getting a big team.
“You have seen teams from outside the Premier League do well in the competition, so there’s no reason why it can’t be Doncaster if we can get a few lucky draws because you do get some strange results.
“At Chelsea, I remember we went to Brentford last season and it was tough. The cup is totally different; you can go away from home in bad conditions and a difficult pitch. But that’s what the cup is all about and it’s unique in its own way.”
Survival in the Championship remains the over-riding priority for Rovers, hugely unfortunate not to take anything away from their New Year’s Day trip at Queen’s Park Rangers, when Paul Dickov’s injury-ravaged side deserved much better, only to be agonisingly thwarted at the death in a painful 2-1 reverse.
By common consent, Rovers merited not just a point, but all three against the R’s, but once again the rub of the green went against them.
The 2-1 loss extended Rovers’ winless Championship sequence to seven matches and they will start their next league game at Blackburn in seven days’ time in the relegation zone.
But at least the green shoots of recovery have started to germinate in the club’s last two games against the London duo of Rangers and Millwall with Turnbull optimistic that if they can maintain those performance levels, then more tangible rewards will definitely come.
But a little bit of cup cheer will not go amiss, with Rovers having only made it to round four twice since 1984-85. Turnbull added: “The FA Cup might be a distraction that might help as we haven’t won in quite a few games now and are looking for a positive result to get into the next round.
“In the last two games, we’ve had two good, steady performances and it seems like we’ve turned the corner and we’ve got to keep it up.”
Doncaster have recalled David Syers after a two-month loan at Scunthorpe.