A JUNIOR football club is bursting with pride after seeing a former player sign for Chelsea.
Ross Turnbull, from Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, agreed a four-year deal with the FA Cup holders this week after his contract with Middlesbrough expired.
The 24-year-old was first spotted as a potential goalkeeper by Arthur Vickerstaff playing in his home town for Newton Aycliffe Youth.
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Mr Vickerstaff has since retired through ill health but Joe Blackett, chairman of the youth side, said everyone there is thrilled with the news. “I remember when Ross first came to the club, he was part of a crop of players who were all ten or 11, but he stood out,” said Mr Blackett.
“He was actually an outfield player back then and it wasn’t until he was a bit older that we gradually got him into goal.
“If it was getting to the point where it was a bit tight they would bring Ross out and he was quite capable of going up front and claiming a couple of goals.
“But things really took off for him when he realised he wanted to be a goalkeeper.”
Turnbull had trials with Darlington and Sunderland before signing academy forms with Middlesbrough and coming up through the system.
Last season he started 22 Premier League matches in a row for Middlesbrough but then went three months without a first team game.
Despite offers to stay on Teesside, he signed with Chelsea on Thursday night.
The father-of-one recently married his partner, Nicola, and remains a regular visitor to Newton Aycliffe, where his parents still live.
As well as being spotted watching Newton Aycliffe Youth games he has visited his old school, Woodham Community and Technology College.
Nicola Parkin, one of his former PE teachers, said: “He was an excellent all round sportsman and always a pleasure to teach.
“Even when he left school and was just starting his professional career he kept in touch, from donating one of his England shirts to helping out at a sponsored bike ride.”
Mr Parkin added: “I wish him well with his career at Chelsea and everyone at the college is extremely proud of his achievements and looking forward to seeing him in the Champions League next year.”