Arsenal Keeper Matt Turner's Journey To The Prem Has Had Many Twists And Turns

The 28-year-old, who arrives from Major League Soccer side New England Revolution, did not start playing football until he was 14
15:02, 27 Jun 2022

It’s all systems go at the Emirates Stadium with Arsenal acting swiftly to bolster their squad in the transfer market. They have already made two signings in Marquinhos and Fabio Vieira and they are now joined by Matt Turner.

American Turner joins the Gunners from Major League Soccer side New England Revolution on a long-term contract as back-up to Aaron Ramsdale but he is a figure who might be unfamiliar to followers of the Premier League.

The 28-year-old grew up watching Arsenal games as a youngster but he did not originally pursue a career in professional football. It was at the age of 14 that he started playing and, particularly in England, it is extremely rare to see someone turn professional who had not kicked a ball for much of their youth.

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When he did start playing football it was originally intended to keep up his fitness levels for his preferred sports of baseball and basketball. He was thrown in between the sticks when the only other goalkeeper suffered an injury during tryouts.

He went on to impress in a sport he never dreamed of playing but soon realised that he might have a future in football. He spent his collegiate career at Fairfield University and faced a number of obstacles. In his first year he was back-up to New Zealand’s London 2012 Olympic shot-stopper Michael O’Keefe. He returned for his sophomore year hoping to be number one but then English goalkeeper Joe Martin was brought in to fill the spot. Turner was given his chance in a match against Iona when Martin suffered an injury, but things didn’t go to plan.

With a long-range shot that hit the crossbar and went upwards, Turner took the risk of trying to catch the ball and it spilled into the back of the net and his mistake went viral. It led to a traumatic time for the New Jersey native and he nearly walked away from the game entirely. His parents convinced him to stick at it and he doubled his efforts to overcome the hurdles in his path.

Having struggled to make the Fairfield team in two years, he needed game time. After several rejections, he got a place with Jersey Express in the American fourth tier. He was given an opportunity when the club’s first and second choice ‘keepers were sidelined and he was able to put his past mistake behind him and help lead Jersey Express to the Premier Development League semi-finals.

Turner graduated from university but wasn’t snapped up in the MLS SuperDraft 2016 and wasn’t invited to the combine, which was another huge test that had him questioning whether to walk away once again. Then fate intervened. He came to the attention of New England Revolution coach Remi Roy, who liked what he saw from Turner’s highlights.

After being invited for a trial, Turner signed a three-year deal with New England Revolution and went out on loan for two seasons with Richmond Kickers in the second tier to gain regular game time. He then returned to the Revs and was given his chance in MLS by the club’s new manager Brad Friedel who handed him his debut.

Turner went on to make a total of 102 appearances for the club and was voted as the club’s MVP by both fans and players in 2020. Now he embarks on his biggest and most exciting challenge to date - the Premier League. To say he has earned this, would be an understatement.

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