Shaun Turner opens up as he signs off from Norfolk FA chief executive role
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017
It's time to say goodbye – outgoing Norfolk FA chief executive SHAUN TURNER opens up to MICHAEL BAILEY over the surprise end to his stewardship
It's happened so much since April, it's become a running joke. As we wander through Norfolk FA's prized facility in Bowthorpe, it happens again.
Shaun Turner is stopped in his tracks by an acquaintance. He acknowledges the truth, that he is stepping down as the county's chief executive.
And then it happens. Turner explains he is leaving to take over his family's portable toilet business – and is met by a look of bemusement with a pause that says, nice punch line; what's the real answer?
'It feels really strange,' admitted Turner. 'It's a day I thought would never come. Genuinely. I never had an intention to leave.
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'It's been quite emotional at times. The Norfolk FA council got me a gift the other week and I could feel myself starting to choke because of how much I care.'
Saturday was day one of a new era, after 14 years with Norfolk FA, 11 of them as top dog – and to say he has made an impact in that time would be a vast understatement.
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There was much more work to do too. Work Turner envisaged being around to help instigate.
But sometimes you arrive at a crossroads. That's how Turner describes his switch from football coaching to administration – and it was the same in April.
'For the first time ever, I've put my family first; the entire family,' said Turner. 'It means my father-in-law can retire. It means I can have more time with the family – we've got a little girl due right now.
'It was a tough week but I lined up all the cards. Losing my mum Jean seven years ago – she just dropped down dead with an aneurism – it makes you realise you have to live for today.
'It's a bit deep but when I got married I made an obligation to my wife that I'd look after her and now we will have two children. We're a normal family that likes to do normal things, and I wanted to secure our future. Then once we've done that, we can take it from there.
'When you put it like that, the decision is quite easy.'
The 37-year-old will be running one of the biggest portable toilet businesses in the country, Toilets Plus, from its head office in Wymondham. If you took in one of Take That's Carrow Road concerts, you probably got to sample their facilities.
'I don't ask anyone to do anything I wouldn't do myself, and I will get my hands dirty – I'm going to have to in this new job, because I've not got a clue what's going on!' joked Turner.
'My transferable skills will see me in good stead, but going from football to toilets is very different. Likewise going from the third sector to the commercial sector. But it's a new challenge.'
As it was when he first took the reins at Norfolk FA at the age of 24 – when the average age of an FA council member is 68.
'I was presented to the Norfolk FA council and people walked through saying, 'Who's brought their grandson?'.
'They said I was too young, I wasn't going to be able to do it – but I was given a chance and I'd like to think I've shown people it's been a success.
'To say you've influenced, affected and been responsible for the football in an entire county, there's not many people who can say that. It's aged me, but it's been an emotional journey.'
The instruction to 'never go back' in football usually applies to past clubs – but does it apply to the game itself? As certain as Turner is in deciding to leave, it seems inevitable this isn't the end.
'When I've done all this, my hope and my aim is I'll come back into football and go again,' he said. 'Actually I see this as a career opportunity to expand and develop, but also an opportunity for me to really fall back in love with the game.
'When you're doing it 20 hours a day, seven days a week, it does grind with you at times.'
No bridges have been burned. Nationally, the FA has told Turner it will be making an effort to keep him involved. And there will be warm support for his successor in Norfolk, Gavin Lemmon.
'I did say we had the right internal candidate because this isn't a sinking ship,' he added, looking across at their Bowthorpe facility. 'We needed someone who can take forward what we've built in 10 years – and I mean we. All I've done is been at the top of it. Without the staff around me, this place wouldn't be half as successful. They should take great credit for that.
'I've told Gavin to call if he ever needs to, because I needed that help when I started.
'Everything happens for a reason is what my mum used to say, so I care more than anyone about this place – it's probably why I get choked up when I'm saying goodbye to people.
'I just want to do what's right for football, and that won't change. So I don't intend to just vanish.'