“I was too small and couldn’t kick...” how a former Sheffield United goalkeeper ended up in Premier League and an England international

England Under-21s goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale feels like pinching himself at his rapid rise as he looks to prove those who wrote him off wrong.
Billy Sharp of Sheffield United takes the ball around Aaron Ramsdale of Bournemouth. Picture: James Wilson/SportimageBilly Sharp of Sheffield United takes the ball around Aaron Ramsdale of Bournemouth. Picture: James Wilson/Sportimage
Billy Sharp of Sheffield United takes the ball around Aaron Ramsdale of Bournemouth. Picture: James Wilson/Sportimage

Ramsdale is with the Young Lions preparing for Euro 2021 qualifiers against Turkey in Izmit on Friday and Kosovo in Hull three days later, having played in all four of Bournemouth’s Premier League games so far this season.

The 21-year-old was released by Bolton aged 15 after being told he was “too small and couldn’t kick”.

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Unsuccessful trials followed before he was signed by Sheffield United, and he subsequently joined Bournemouth in January 2017.

His Cherries debut, in their season opener against the Blades last month, came after spending time on loan at Chesterfield in 2017-18 and AFC Wimbledon last term.

Ramsdale said: “A lot of people have had rejection and probably worse stories than me, but it’s definitely an ‘I’ve proved you wrong’ sort of thing.

“When you watch yourself on Match of the Day, which I watched as a kid like everyone else, it really is a pinch yourself moment. It’s like ‘wow’.

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“I did five years at Bolton. As a 15-year-old I got released. I was too small and couldn’t kick were the reasons they gave me. At the time it was true, but they never sort of gave me the chance to grow.

“I trialled all around the country, had quite a lot of rejections and then found myself at Sheffield United.

“I struggled a lot as a first-year scholar, came back as a second-year and sort of grew up a little bit more. I started finding my feet, performances were getting better and then about a year-and-a-half later, Bournemouth came in and bid for me.

“I had a tough loan spell with Chesterfield, getting relegated. Then Wimbledon last year was hopefully the start of many good seasons to come.”

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Ramsdale says he returned for pre-season with Bournemouth over the summer thinking a move to the Championship on loan would be the best thing for him, mentioning Swansea and Huddersfield as clubs that were interested in him.

He then took encouragement from featuring in friendlies ahead of the new campaign, before getting the nod from boss Eddie Howe for the Sheffield United game ahead of Artur Boruc, Mark Travers and the now-departed Asmir Begovic.

“He (Howe) said, ‘The shirt is now yours until you give me a reason to rethink it’,” Ramsdale said.

“It was a big deep breath moment and a celebration inside, but obviously you’ve got to keep your feet on the ground.

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“It’s taken a bit of time to sink in – I got sort of thrown in. But that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to hit the challenge, full steam ahead. The manager has shown so much belief in me and hopefully I can repay him with performances.”

Bournemouth drew 1-1 with Sheffield United and then won 2-1 at Aston Villa before 3-1 defeats against Manchester City and at Leicester.

Regarding being part of Aidy Boothroyd’s Under-21s, Ramsdale said: “I’ve been in and around the England sides before and this is my first call-up to the 21s where I’m one of the older players and hopefully one of the main players and a mainstay in the team.

“It’s always a massive honour and a privilege to be in my position, where I’m at. You’ve got to take every opportunity because there are so many great talents around the country playing football. I’m very lucky to be here.”

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On Tuesday, the Football Association announced QPR attacker Eberechi Eze and midfielder Grady Diangana, who is on loan at West Bom from West Ham, had been called up to the Under-21s squad, replacing injured duo Joe Willock and Dwight McNeil.

Boothroyd’s squad features only three players – Phil Foden, Reiss Nelson and Morgan Gibbs-White – that were part of the disappointing campaign at the Euros in Italy and San Marino over the summer, which saw England eliminated in the group stage.