THERE was no shortage of casualties when Wanderers veered towards financial disaster a few years ago but Jake Turner was one of a few younger players who landed on their feet.

The goalkeeper had been with Bolton from the age of 14, his fearsome frame earning him the nickname ‘Large’ as he made his way through the academy set-up and into England’s junior teams.

Five years ago Bolton’s youth system was ranked the fourth best in the country in a Premier League productivity test and a year later David Lee’s Under-23s won the national title at Development squad level.

Turner had already made his break into senior football with spells in non-league at Stalybridge Celtic, Frickley Athletic and Darlington, and Phil Parkinson called him up on several occasions as first team understudy to Ben Alnwick or Mark Howard in the Championship.

In any ordinary situation, Turner may have been first team material when Bolton dropped into League One in 2019 – but as every Whites fan knows, they did so in a state of unprecedented chaos.

Turner, still a teenager, was offered a way out by Newcastle United. Recommended by another Bolton player on his way out of the door, Sammi Ameobi, the teenager suddenly had a chance to play at a Premier League club but says the decision was not that straightforward.

“It was the uncertainty,” he told The Bolton News. “In football you have to look after yourself a bit and have some security, which is what I did in the end with Newcastle.

“I loved my time at Bolton, it was probably one of the best times I had in my career – being on the bench, in and around that first team, it was one of the highlights so far. Being around that at 17 or 18 was an unreal experience.

“But towards the end, seeing what was going on at the club, it was hard to give out new contracts, I suppose. Mine was up at that time so there was an opportunity I saw to go elsewhere.

“It was a hard decision at the time because I’d enjoyed it so much but the position the club was in, I wouldn’t say it was a way out, but it was a chance to progress.”

The Bolton News:

Turner had actually played as a striker in his early days but established his new position in the Bolton academy, earning a reputation as one of the country’s brightest young prospects.

“It was all credit to the people at Bolton,” he said. “To be fair, I went to the club quite late as a keeper, I was about 14 or 15 when I first came in.

“Sam Meek was my first keeper coach and he’s now in the England set-up. He must have seen something when I first came in, probably that I was about 6ft 5ins.

“It’s credit to Lee Butler in the first team as well. I felt like I came on leaps and bounds when I trained with him and the first team lads.

“I had a couple of loans later on which really helped, too, playing men’s football at that age.”

The opportunity to move up to Newcastle came with a caveat that Turner would work with the club’s Under-23s – but also opened the door to loan opportunities at Morecambe and Colchester United.

This summer the Wilmslow-born 23-year-old has been told his contract will not be renewed at St James’ Park and despite never getting a taste of senior football in the North East he says doors were opened that might not have been elsewhere.

“They are a Premier League – and I think Bolton deserve to be one, even though things have changed. I think they will be there again one day,” he said.

“But going from what was a League One team to a Premier League side was where you want to be when you are young, that sort of environment.

“Being there I managed to get more loans and played professional games, which was always my dream when I was younger. I can always say that now I have had a few professional appearances – hopefully the first of many, but even if not it is ticked off.

“I managed to train with some really good players at Newcastle and when you worked with the first team you can see the difference in standard.

“I keep going back, though, to the fact they gave me the chance to go out on loan and play proper football, which is what I still need.”

The Bolton News:

Turner has 31 senior appearances under his belt as he looks for a new club this summer, taking something from each of the loan spells he spent away from Newcastle.

“I loved both the loans,” he said. “As a player you just want to be playing regularly.

“The first one at Morecambe I went there as a number one and think I did okay. I perhaps didn’t know what I was expecting at the start because it was the first time I’d been in that professional environment.

“It got to Christmas and I went back to Newcastle because I found myself out of the team.

“With Colchester it was a bit different. I’d gone there as a number two and knowing I might not play much but just be in and around the first team every day, getting used to the environment.

“You never know in football, though. You can get in the team through injury, illness or just playing well and I’d played a few of the Papa John’s Trophy games and did well, then the keeper got an injury at half time and I came on for a league game. He was injured until my loan was up, so I ended up playing about 10 times.

“Even when I wasn’t playing at Colchester I loved my time there. It reminded me a bit of Bolton, being around the first team environment with players who have had great careers, some have been in that league all their life. It’s a great mix of people.

“When you are playing it always makes it better and when you are playing well, it makes it a hell of a lot better.”

Hundreds of footballers will find themselves in a similar situation to Turner this summer after being released by their parent club, and while there is some trepidation about finding a new employer and continuing his progression, the youngster is genuinely looking forward to seeing what opportunities are out there.

“You have the nerves – I am out of contract, have no job – but there are other people in the same shoes as me. But In believe in myself and I know I have done enough in the last two years,” he said.

“I wish I had played more games but with the circumstances I wasn’t able to. Now I want to find the right club and hopefully make the right decision.

“I have played a few games now, and I am 23 so I know there are younger keepers who are playing but I am still quite young for a keeper.

“I think at this stage of my career I want to be playing as many games as I can – help a team get promoted, stay in the league, get as high as they can.

“Be that League Two, League One, Championship – that is what I am hopefully going to find, a club where I can show what I can do, they believe in me and help me improve. I still want to get better and push myself.

“I am looking forward to what’s next.”

The Bolton News: