With Manchester United (MU) enjoying a successful English Premier League (EPL) season this year, scoring their 19th Premier Cup win, Jim Turner, a retired police officer from Liverpool, becomes the centre of attraction.
|Jim Turner, the protector of Manchester United’s most prestigious trophy, the Premier Cup during their world tour in Colombo. (Pic by Amila Prabodha)
Turner (62) is entrusted with the most responsible profession by MU. He travels with the EPL trophy they won last season and is very watchful – he is the custodian of the coveted trophy. Clad in a butler like suit he takes care of the prestigious Premier Trophy while it’s been taken on a world tour covering 42 countries which also includes cricket crazy Sri Lanka.
“I work for MU since 2002. This wasn’t always my role; obviously we didn’t win the trophy every year. But this year having won the trophy for the 19th time, MU decided to take it around the world and generate as many fans as possible. Sri Lanka is the 17th country I’ve been to since May 2011,” Turner told the Sunday Times.
Turner, a former police sergeant belongs to the strong security division of MU, which is a massive contingent, even bigger than a private security force relatively in Sri Lanka. He explained of his main role when England’s most watched football seasons get to action.
“I’m part of the security team of MU which is very strong for a football club. On match days we have between 400 and 600 security stewards. I’m mainly based at the control room. I’m in the team that organises the security to control ejection when people start misbehaving. I also coordinate the security on match days.”
MU has won the most trophies in English football, which includes 19 League titles and 11 FA Cups - both stand as records – in addition to four League Cups and 19 FA Community Shields. In addition MU also has won three European Cups, a title each of the UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup and FIFA Club World Cup including a treble win in the 1998-99 football season.
“I’ve had the UEFA Champions League Trophy taken around England before. I was also assigned to take around the FA Cup, the Community Shield and whatever we won to various events,” Turner explained.
“These trophies stay in our museum at Old Trafford. Until I pick one of them from there officially they stay inside locked rooms safely. When I pick a trophy up to be taken around, I have to sign for it and obtain a gate pass. And I take it to wherever I’m told to go – it could be anywhere.”
Though Turner has been comfortable travelling with trophies in and around England for so many years this year is a tiring yet busy one for him. Good old Turner was never used to travel extensively as MU has been doing this year.
“I was given this special role only this year. Normally I used to travel around England, to take the trophies for fan based events. But since MU won the Premier League for 19th time, the club decided to go around the world. Now I’m quite used to travelling.
This is my 17th country; we have had a very good response right-throughout. It’s surprising to see even in countries like Ecuador, Argentina and Mexico MU having a strong following. It was much stronger in China, we were mobbed by fans and the police had to rescue us eventually,” summed up Turner while recalling his first experience as an 18-year-old MU fan who was kept in the waiting list for three years.
Starting from February 4, a special team along with Turner, the trophy and a few legends from MU will visit 27 cities in 25 countries. Turner lives a happily married life for 40 years with his understanding wife. As he will be much busier than now in a few months Turner says he is committed to his primary function which is to look after the trophy whenever it is exhibited.
The world tour of Turner and the Premier Trophy will come to an end this May when MU hands it over again to the FA days before the new season kicks off. Until then Turner is ever watchful of the trophy which every football fan would like to touch.
“It will never get stolen. That will never happen. It stays with me everywhere. I take it on the plane with me and it sits next to me on the plane. It has its own ticket. It stays in my room, sleeps with me. It has a special locker box. If MU loses the Premier League we will still have the FA Cup to display. I love this job and I hope we will retain the Premiership this season too. Otherwise I’ll just become another small cog in a big wheel,” said Turner while buffing the surface of the trophy.