Football: All Whites mastermind John Adshead remembers deceased 'hardman' Grant Turner

Forty years have passed since the legendary 1982 All Whites survived a tortuous 15-game campaign through Oceania, Asia and the Middle East to qualify for their first World Cup in Spain.

Mastermind John Adshead still remembers that journey in incredible detail, but as the decades have passed, he insists he has never seen a goal better than that scored by midfielder Grant Turner against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

"I've seen people like George Best sit fullbacks on their backside two or three times, before he decided to put the cross in," he told Newshub. "I've seen all the great players, but that in isolation, if you look at where it started and how it finished, I would defy you to show me a better one."

Epitomising the 'hardman' qualities he showed on the pitch, Turner has finally succumbed to a three-year battle with cancer, passing away at the age of 64.

With his departure, a particular generation of Kiwi football fans will inevitably turn their memories back to those halcyon days at Mt Smart Stadium, where the All Whites played their home fixtures on that qualifying schedule.

Turner scored several crucial goals during that run, but the strike that put New Zealand 2-0 ahead of the Aussies late in that trans-Tasman clash will be the most remembered.  

"The build-up was so relaxed," recalled Adshead. "Its was lovely football... it came out through the backs through Elrick, I think 'Buzzy' [McKay] got a touch and Duncan Cole.

"The cross, when [Turner] met it... [captain] Steve Sumner said to me after the game, 'You'll never see another header like that' and I don't think I ever have, not of that quality, not of that build-up and not of the importance.

Grant Turner in action against Indonesia 1982
Grant Turner in action against Indonesia 1982. Photo credit: Photosport

"When that ball hit the back of the net, Australia was dead and buried from the minute he did that."

Turner had a reputation for his physicality, but the skill he showed to rise above the defence and header home showed there was to his game.

"He was strong in the air, but I wouldn't have given him credit for the athleticism, because he climbed for that," said Adshead. "To get above that ball, for a start, and then direct it, and the distance it travelled and the power it travelled with... another player could have struck it with his boot."

The coach admits Turner rubbed opponents the wrong way on the field and had misgivings about his future, when he first came into the national team.

"He played with an intensity and a hardness that other players didn't like, but he was fair," said Adshead. "I can't ever remember him getting a red card, but he was hard and you much preferred to have him on your team than play against him.

Grant Turner and assistant coach Kevin Fallon at a 1982 All Whites reunion
Grant Turner and assistant coach Kevin Fallon at a 1982 All Whites reunion. Photo credit: Photosport

"He came to me with his tats on his hands and tats on his chest, and I think, for a long time, he felt like he didn't fit. 

"He couldn't do what Steve Woodin did, he couldn't do what Wynton Rufer did and I had to tell him, 'You're here because you're you, I want you to do what you do well'."

But despite his reputation, Adshead insists he will remember a very different side to Grant Turner.

"He was a lionheart, but there were a lot of sides to him," he said. "Grant Turner was a very gentle man.

"What we used to see at 4 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon on the football pitch was a very different person to who he was.

"He was a super guy and I'd like him to be remember, not as the hardman, as the guy who would kick you... that's was only a very small part of him. There was a lot more to Grant Turner."