Blair Turgott, speedy and elusive, had his say for England just seven minutes after stepping onto the pitch against Canada in Pachuca, cutting across the left and curling a brilliant right-footed swinger into the top corner of the net. It looked like a winner for the English at 2-1 with 13 minutes to go on Wednesday evening, but fate intervened and Canada’s goalkeeper, Quillan Roberts, scored an historic equaliser from his own half to earn the North Americans a share of the spoils.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said Turgott, with his unmistakable London accent. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where a goalkeeper has scored. It was an odd one, but it happens you know, it’s football after all.”
A rangy striker who can also play in a midfield role, Turgott is considered one of the most promising up-and-comers in the ranks at West Ham United’s youth academy. His goal, and his impressive performance off the bench, will have coach John Peacock scratching his head before England’s final Group C match.
The boss made the bold decision to bench Hallam Hope against Canada, even after the Everton prospect scored one of the goals in the 2-0 opening win over Rwanda. Instead, the man in charge opted to start with two new players in the forward positions: Adam Morgan of Liverpool and Birmingham City’s Nathan Redmond. The gamble seemed to pay off, too, with Morgan nodding home the opener. However, the coach wasn't done tinkering yet, and in the second half, he brought on Crewe’s Max Clayton and Turgott, who made an instant impact.
“Every player in our group wants to play, so it’s good for all the guys in attack to get the opportunity to prove themselves for later on in the competition, when they might be needed to make a big difference,” was Turgott’s assessment after getting his first taste of a world finals. “It’s also good for competition in the team; it makes the players better.”
Peacock has now used five of the six strikers on his squad list in his two games, with only Manchester City ace Alex Henshall yet to take the pitch. Three of those five have fired their way onto the scoresheet. “I have a lot of strikers on the bench and I wanted to give them some time and see how they would react,” was the coach’s response when asked about his decision to leave the impressive Hope out of the line-up against the Canadians, start two new attackers and shuffle his pack so dramatically again over the course of the game.
Peacock will need to get the formula right ahead of England’s next and final test in Group C. Having moved to torrid Torreon from their central, breezy locale of Pachuca, Peacock’s rotating band of strikers face a tough test in Uruguay, who have yet to concede a goal in two games and are looking like the meanest defence on offer here in Mexico. “We know about Uruguay’s defence, and that they have yet to concede,” Turgott added. “But we need to worry about our own game, about moving the ball, keeping things simple and being patient.”
Surely Turgott will be hoping to get in from the start on Saturday, and Peacock will have a selection headache for sure when it comes time to put his 11 names down. One thing is certain though, if called to get the job done from the bench, this young Hammer has already shown he knows the way to goal.
It’s good for competition in the team; it makes the players better.