Geneva grad Turnbull fullfills lifelong dream

  • Geneva and Notre Dame graduate Duncan Turnbull made his professional debut this week for Portsmouth FC in England.

    Geneva and Notre Dame graduate Duncan Turnbull made his professional debut this week for Portsmouth FC in England. Courtesy of Duncan Turnbull

  • Geneva's Duncan Turnbull made his professional debut this week for Portsmouth FC.

    Geneva's Duncan Turnbull made his professional debut this week for Portsmouth FC. Courtesy of Duncan Turnbull

Updated 1/14/2021 3:56 PM

Duncan Turnbull's professional soccer debut Tuesday night fulfilled a lifelong dream.

Turnbull, a Geneva High School and Notre Dame graduate, is a goalkeeper for Portsmouth FC in England. Portsmouth, known as Pompey, plays in League One of the English Third Division.


Turnbull made his first appearance against Peterborough.

"It was an incredible moment and I'm hoping to build off it and play as many games as I can now," Turnbull said. "I just need to keep working hard in training and waiting for another opportunity. It was an amazing feeling to finally make my professional debut after so many years of working hard. To get that chance was something I'll remember forever."

Turnbull said his dream of playing professional soccer began at a young age. His dad, Neil, played soccer at the University of Akron and got him interested in the sport, coaching Turnbull until he was 13.

Turnbull said his mom Sue and siblings Stuart, 18, Ian, 16, and Fiona, 13, also have provided invaluable support along with Geneva coach Ryan Estabrook and goalkeeper coach at Big Cat Goalkeeping, Neil Thompson, who is now his agent.

Turnbull's parents haven't been able to visit because of the pandemic. At least they can watch the Portsmouth games, broadcast either on ESPN+ or straight from the club.

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Even with his parents across the pond, Turnbull said the adjustment to living and playing in a new country is going well. It helps that his dad's parents live in Portsmouth.

"I've really enjoyed living in England so far," Turnbull said. "I am very lucky to have family nearby. There was definitely a learning curve when I started driving on the other side of the road but I'm all settled in now and just focused on having as much success as possible."

Professional sports have resumed in America with no fans or limited seating, and it's a similar situation in England. Currently the UK is in a lockdown so there are no fans allowed; at the start of December they did allow 2,000 fans.

"I'm very lucky to be playing at a club with incredible fans," Turnbull said. "We have some of the best fans in all of Europe. The passion of the fans is amazing and the atmosphere in the stadium is unlike anything I've seen. I can't wait to be back in the stadium with 18,000 Pompey fans again but for now we just have to play behind closed doors."


Turnbull played college soccer at Notre Dame, finishing 6-2-2 as a junior. He made 2 of his biggest saves in a 12-round shootout against Michigan in the NCAA Championships Round of 32 to help the Irish advance.

Turnbull started 16 matches as a senior and recorded 4 clean sheets.

Turnbull's longtime goalkeeper coach, Thompson, was helpful putting him in contact with professional teams. He sent out Turnbull's highlight video that eventually got him a trial at Manchester United last January.

While it ultimately didn't work out at Manchester, Turnbull went to a trial at Aberdeen FC in Scotland, and a trial with Huddersfield FC in England before landing at Portsmouth FC. Turnbull ended up staying at Portsmouth on trial for five weeks. Portsmouth eventually decided to sign him.

"It was a no-brainer for me to sign the contract," Turnbull said.

Pompey is third in the league and hoping to get promoted to the next division, the championship division. The season began in early September and runs through early May.

A vast majority of his teammates are English and there's no other American on the team, but Turnbull said everyone has been helpful making him feel at home.

And he's also getting plenty of support back in Geneva.

"Everybody from Geneva has been unbelievably supportive," Turnbull said. "I've had countless friends, coaches and ex-teammates from Geneva send me texts and messages since I signed in March. There were so many people (from Geneva) that were hugely important in my development both on and off the field."

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