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Ramsdale: It never entered my head to jack it all in

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

If goalkeepers are supposed to be eccentric, Aaron Ramsdale certainly fits the bill.

Just weeks before making his Premier League debut, Ramsdale attended the League Two play-off final in fancy dress.

He donned a Teletubbies outfit and was at Wembley to see his close pal Harvey Gilmour help Tranmere overcome Newport County to win promotion.

Despite his outgoing personality and zest for life, Ramsdale also has a serious side, his burning desire to succeed fuelled by rejection as a youngster.

A personable and confident character, the 21-year-old’s fascinating journey is a tale of triumph over adversity.

“When I was 15, I was released by Bolton,” Ramsdale told afcb.co.uk. “They said I was too small and couldn’t kick.

“At the time, they were right but they didn’t give me a chance to grow. A few other clubs looked at my size and also said no.

“I’d spent five years there and it was tough to take. I went there every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and thought it was everything.

“The rejection gave me backbone. When it happened again, it wasn’t a surprise and I just shrugged it off. I always thought I would get a chance.

“In year 11, I was about 5ft 8ins. Within a few months of leaving school, I was 6ft 1ins and have grown even more over the past two or three years.”

A supportive family helped soften the blow before Ramsdale was offered terms by Sheffield United, the Blades beating Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield to his signature.

“It never entered my head to jack it all in,” said Ramsdale. “Not once. I was never convinced I would get in somewhere but was never going to give up. I might have doubted I was going to get a place but was never going to throw in the towel.”

Born in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Ramsdale’s father was a 400m hurdler and twice ran for Great Britain, while his mother had trials for England at netball.

Edward, one of two older brothers, is a prison officer, while Oliver, the second, is an actor, currently touring with the smash-hit musical Dirty Dancing.  

Fortunately, Ramsdale’s parents were always happy for him to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer, unlike his great-grandfather.

“My dad’s dad was a goalkeeper and was offered terms by West Brom, Wolves, Aston Villa and Birmingham,” said Ramsdale. “But his dad said “no, you’ve got to get a proper job”.

“The money back then wasn’t great and it wasn’t financially stable. He never got to play professionally and became a maths teacher and then a head teacher.

“There was never anything like that with my mum or dad. The only ultimatum they gave me was that if ever my school work slipped, they would take me away from football until it came back.

“I always had a ball, whether it was in the garden or to just carry. My auntie brought one to the house just after I had been born and reminds me about it all the time!

“I remember telling my dad when I was about seven or eight that I wanted to be a goalkeeper and he looked at me and said ‘are you mad?’ I just shrugged my shoulders.”

Ramsdale, whose uncle Chris Hemming played for Stoke and Hereford and was the first professional to play while having a pacemaker, left home at 16 and moved into digs after signing for Sheffield United.

“People might say I’m lying but I loved it,” he added. “It was easy for me. Even when I was at Bolton, I stayed away on Monday nights with a mate. I was used to being away from home. I’m a big family person but I don’t get homesick. It was a challenge and I enjoyed it.

“I lived with David Brooks and we lodged with Dave and Carla Henry – digs life was great.”

Ramsdale progressed through the ranks at Bramall Lane before joining the Cherries on transfer deadline day in January 2017.

“At the time, I didn’t really want to leave,” said Ramsdale. “I was 18 and was on the bench for the first team in League One. I was flying and was loving it. I had also played in a couple of FA Cup games.

“I didn’t feel I was ready and didn’t think I was at the right stage of my career to leave. We were going for promotion, I was with my mates and everything was comfortable.

“Sheffield United couldn’t turn down the money and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity either. I asked if we could wait until the end of the season. Looking back now, I was a bit naïve.

“I wanted a promotion on my CV and wanted to play some games. I was settled and we were having fun. It was a big change coming here.

“To start with, I was training with the first team but not playing any games for them and it was hard to get my head round. That year, I played more games for England under-19s than I did for Bournemouth, first team and under-21s. It was difficult.

“When I came here, I never once thought that I wasn’t going to succeed at this club. I just felt I would be better served staying at Sheffield United for the rest of the season, getting more experience on and off the pitch as a player and a man. I came here as a boy in a man’s world and was like a fish out of water.”

A successful loan spell at AFC Wimbledon last season was arguably the making of Ramsdale before an impressive pre-season with the Cherries saw him get the nod for the Premier League curtain-raiser against his former club.

Put to him that getting the shirt is the easy part and keeping it is the most difficult, Ramsdale said: “A lot of people have said that. It’s quite self-explanatory and there’s not much I can say.

“If I perform then I keep my shirt. If I don’t then I lose it. There are three very good goalkeepers who I need to keep in front of. 

“Football is a great life and a great lifestyle but sometimes people can forget about the sacrifices and pressures on your family, especially when you’re young. Football is your life and, when things don’t go your way, it’s tough.

“I’ve put a lot of hard work in to get to where I am today. My dad missed out on work to get me to trials and I won’t forget sleeping in motorway service stations between going to different clubs.”

Now, about that fancy dress?

Ramsdale revealed all when he said: “I’ve got a stupid tattoo on my ankle. It’s the letter ‘U’ which stands for union. There are five of us in the group and we all played together at Sheffield United.

“Harvey Gilmour went on loan to Tranmere and then signed permanently. They got to the play-off final so we thought why not go in fancy dress. The outfits were £10 because they were old stock.

“Me, Regan Slater and Ollie Greaves went as Teletubbies but Jo Cummings was preparing for the play-offs with Charlton so he didn’t get dressed up. It was a great day and we had a good laugh!”

This article first appeared in MATCHDAY for the Cherries' Premier League clash with Manchester City in August.

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