Aaron Ramsdale’s road to Arsenal No.1 was bumpy but now he’s driving the Gunners’ revival

Just off junction 33 of the M1, a short drive from Rotherham, there is parking. An anonymous patchwork of painted lines but an indelible milestone on Aaron Ramsdale’s journey. Next stop? The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for derby day.

“My dad and I would stay at Travelodge hotels night after night,” the 23-year-old recalled. “One night, we couldn’t even find a free hotel. So we both got off on his van.

As a youngster, the goalkeeper was used to life on the road. His mother Caroline, who worked at a nearby school, would drive him from Staffordshire to train at Bolton. Up to three and a half hours on the highway, three or four times a week.

Aaron Ramsdale spoke to sports mail on his journey from rejection to Arsenal No.1

Ramsdale used to sleep in his dad's van as he tried to make it as a young goalkeeper

Ramsdale used to sleep in his dad’s van as he tried to make it as a young goalkeeper

“Mum would leave work early to take me to Bolton at 6pm in the middle of rush hour,” Ramsdale recalled. “She was then working overtime and overtime just to make sure she didn’t get in trouble.”

Then, at 15, Bolton hit the handbrake. “They thought I was too small,” Ramsdale recalled after being released. “It was nothing short of devastating… it would have been easy to give up.”

Instead of? “Dad and I traveled anywhere and everywhere, across the country, just to try to get a trial,” continues the Arsenal goalkeeper.

“Leicester also thought I was too small. Rotherham said I hadn’t filled my shirt enough. A lot of others wouldn’t even give me a trial.

The now Arsenal star was turned down by Bolton, Leciester and Rotherham for being too short

The now Arsenal star was turned down by Bolton, Leciester and Rotherham for being too short

Her father Nick, usually a plumber and plasterer, was happy to play chauffeur. “As long as my school work didn’t suffer,” Ramsdale recalls.

Eventually, these long drives led to exit 33. To this parking lot. Eventually, visits to Yorkshire became less fleeting. Sheffield United offered him a scholarship. “It was a huge turning point,” Ramsdale says. Now at Arsenal, Ramsdale is among England’s most promising talents.

Sunday’s North London derby at Tottenham represents another litmus test for him and Mikel Arteta’s young side. But since the goalkeeper’s first Premier League start for the club in September, they have gone from the bottom of the table to the top four.

No one doubts its quality anymore. No one at Leicester considered Ramsdale too small in October, when he swung James Maddison’s free-kick over the bar with a stunning diving save. It was arguably the save of the season so far.

Ramsdale was not deemed too small by Leicester when they performed their wonder last October

Ramsdale was not deemed too small by Leicester when they performed their wonder last October

“I saw it didn’t go my way and just went,” Ramsdale recalled. “The photos are so beautiful! »

Now unmistakably Arsenal’s No.1, only Manchester City’s Ederson has more clean sheets in the top flight this season than his nine. A welcome improvement, certainly, after the struggles of past seasons. Ramsdale have suffered three relegations in four years – at Chesterfield, Bournemouth and Sheffield United.

“Chesterfield was by far the most distressing,” he says. Ramsdale were loaned out in January 2018, shortly before Chesterfield fell to non-league for the first time in nearly a century.

“I was only 18, but it really gets to me when your friends put their things away and tidy up their desks because they lost their jobs.”

Ramsdale rose through the footballing ranks playing for Chesterfield and AFC Wimbledon

Ramsdale rose through the footballing ranks playing for Chesterfield and AFC Wimbledon

The only surviving season in this four-year run came in 2019, when Ramsdale helped AFC Wimbledon finish a place above the drop zone. This upbringing in England’s top four divisions provided useful lessons. On and off the pitch.

“I used to watch social media when I was younger. But after the flak that was flying when I was at Chesterfield I realized it was not a good thing to watch,” says Ramsdale.

That came in handy last May when Arsenal called. The prospect of paying £30million for a Bernd Leno replacement has proven a tough sell in north London. “I was getting a lot of stick but luckily I didn’t see it. Thirty million pounds is a lot of money for a number 2,” he says.

Luckily, Arteta was unwavering. “Having Mikel’s advice was invaluable. He was adamant he wanted me,’ Ramsdale said. a player needs more than some.”

Ramsdale (right) spoke about the confidence Gunners manager Mikel Arteta (left) has in him

Ramsdale (right) spoke about the confidence Gunners manager Mikel Arteta (left) has in him

It was also comforting to know that the predecessors went through similar hostility. “David Seaman was a great role model for me,” says Ramsdale. “He explained how he got a similar reaction from Arsenal fans when he joined QPR. His advice was very reassuring.

Now Ramsdale is settled in London. He is close to Ben White and Bukayo Saka. The man Ramsdale usurped also made a tricky situation a little easier. “Bernd was amazing,” he says. “He didn’t have to help me settle in and the last few months haven’t been easy for him.”

Ramsdale also have plans to usurp Jordan Pickford as England’s No.1. A first selection arrived in November.

“By working day in and day out with Harry Kane, Kyle Walker and John Stones, you can only become a better player,” he says. “When they come and sit with you for dinner, it’s amazing.”

Ramsdale (left) also intends to usurp Jordan Pickford (middle) as England No.1 in future

Ramsdale (left) also intends to usurp Jordan Pickford (middle) as England No.1 in future

For now, Ramsdale is sticking to what works and that includes sticking to his superstitions.

‘The right sock first. Right shin guard first. Right glove first. The right glove comes out first,” says Ramsdale. The last part counts. Why? “I take a glove off before shaking hands at the end of a game,” Ramsdale says.

“My dad met Bobby Charlton once and dad asked if he could shake his hand. Bobby nodded and took off his glove to shake it. That touch of respect stayed with Dad for years – now it stays with me. Just like that night off the M1.

Aaron Ramsdale was speaking to GK1 magazine, which is published by global management company, World in Motion Ltd. (www.worldinmotion.com)

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