The first season of the Football League began in September, 1888. Preston North End won the first championship without losing a single match and acquired the name the "invincibles". Bolton Wanderers finished in 5th place, winning 10 of their 22 games. Turner made his debut near the end of the season and scored in Bolton's 7-3 victory over Notts County.
John J. Bentley began recruiting players such as John Somerville, Di Jones, John Sutcliffe and James Cassidy. However, in the 1889-90 season Bolton Wanderers finished 9th with 19 points out of a possible 44. The 1890-91 season saw a slight improvement with the club finishing in 5th place with 25 points. Turner was switched from outside-left to wing-half in the 1991-92 season.
Turner continued to impress as a wing-half and he won his first international cap for England against Wales on 13th March 1893. Also in the team that day was Billy Bassett, John Goodall, Bob Holmes, Charlie Perry, Jack Reynolds, Fred Spiksley and John Sutcliffe. England won the game 6-0.
In April 1895 Bolton Wanderers played an away game against Bury in the Lancashire Senior Cup. After he made a strong tackle against an opponent the home crowd rushed on the field and attacked him and the referee was forced to abandon the game.
In the 1893-94 season, Bolton Wanderers beat Small Heath (4-3), Newcastle United (2-1), Liverpool (3-0) and Sheffield Wednesday (3-2) to reach the 1894 FA Cup Final. Unfortunately, Bolton lost to Notts County 4-1 in the final at Goodison Park.
Turner joined Stoke City in September 1904. He had scored 12 goals in 108 league and cup games for Bolton Wanderers. Turner won his second international cap for England against Ireland on 9th March, 1895. England won the game 9-0.
Turner was transferred to Derby County in 1896. In the 1896-97 season Derby County finished in 3rd position in the First Division. Derby had a good FA Cup run in the 1897-98 season. They beat Aston Villa (1-0), Wolverhampton Wanderers (1-0), Liverpool (5-1) and Everton (3-1) on the way to the final against Nottingham Forest. Steve Bloomer scored for Derby but they lost the game 3-1.
Turner won his third and final international cap for England against Ireland on 5th March 1898. Other members of the team included Charlie Athersmith, John Robinson, Gilbert O. Smith and George Wheldon. England won the game 3-2.
James Turner died in 1904.