Sheffield United's Aaron Ramsdale on England, Top Gun, meeting Ed Sheeran and his unusual living arrangement
Of all the stories surrounding Aaron Ramsdale this summer, about the interest from Arsenal, call-up for Euro 2020 and meeting with musical superstar Ed Sheeran, maybe the strangest but definitely the most heartwarming concerns his domestic arrangements.
“When I came back here last summer, I went to live there,” the Sheffield United goalkeeper smiles, explaining how he moved into the digs he used to stay in as a teenager after returning to Bramall Lane. “A lot of my mates asked me why. But I thought why not? I loved it there, loved my room and the couple who owned the house. They’ve been brilliant to me and you definitely can’t look after yourself in a hotel properly. No way whatsoever.”
Ramsdale’s life has been a whirlwind since he returned to Bramall Lane. After beginning the campaign in chequered fashion, the 23-year-old finished the season in imperious form, but couldn’t save United from relegation. Gareth Southgate softened the blow by drafting Ramsdale into his squad for the recent tournament. Although he did not feature, watching all but one of their games from the bench, Ramsdale still enjoyed some experiences which will live with him forever during the Three Lions’ march into the final, where they were eventually beaten by Italy following a penalty shoot-out.
“Some of the things that happened were just bizarre, out of this world,” Ramsdale replies, when asked to select some of his favourite moments. “We watched the latest Top Gun film after dinner one night.
“It was a private screening just for us. It’s not out here for another few months. And before it came on, Tom Cruise popped up on the camera because he’d sent a private video message.”
“There was another time, when we’d been training and we’d come back into the hotel we were staying in for something to eat, and there was Ed Sheeran just strumming away on his guitar,” Ramsdale continues, opening the gallery on his mobile to provide the evidence. “So there we were, and he’s doing a few songs. It was weird. But brilliant.”
Ramsdale sounds like a fan as he describes his time at St George’s Park. “The first day, I was sat down for breakfast and chatting to Harry Maguire. Then Harry Kane comes over. Everyone made me feel so welcome.”
But as he begins previewing the new season, the youngster’s demeanor changes. Despite seeing a string of poor results force them to kiss goodbye to the top-flight and also their long-serving manager Chris Wilder, United are still expected to win promotion from the Championship next term.
“Quite a lot of things have changed,” Ramsdale says ahead of Saturday’s home game against Birmingham City; United’s first competitive fixture under Slavisa Jokanovic. “The new manager is doing things differently and so there’s a lot to think about.
“It’s good, though. Really good. All of the ads are enjoying it. We had a massive disappointment last season but we’re in the mood to bounce back from that and everyone is ready to get out there again.”
Ramsdale is certain to start against City, after impressing Jokanovic with his attitude and application since reporting back for duty at the Steelphalt Academy. But his long term future with United is shrouded in doubt, with Mikel Arteta still hoping to lure him to the Emirates Stadium before the end of the transfer window.
Despite being the subject of two unofficial bids from the north Londoners, who are either unwilling or unable to meet United’s valuation of a player they signed for around £18m 12 months ago, Jokanovic has spoken openly about his desire to retain Ramsdale’s services beyond this month’s deadline.
Although it would be unfair to ask him for an update about the situation, United supporters will be encouraged to learn that Ramsdale seems to be building a life for himself in the city he moved to as a teenager after enrolling on the club’s youth programme.
“Like I said, I went back into my old digs when I came back but I’ve bought the house now,” explains Ramsdale, who spent three years with AFC Bournemouth after being sold to help fund the first of two promotions United achieved under Wilder. “The couple who had it, lovely people, they’ve retired now and so I got it.
“I’ve got my own place now as well. So what I’ve done is move some of the young lads from here in there, because I know they’ll love it. I had such a great time living there so they will too. They’ve just got to remember I’m not only their team mate now, I’m also their landlord though. So they better stay in my good books.”
Although United have yet to bolster the options at Jokanovic’s disposal, seemingly preferring to wait and see what happens with another Arsenal target Sander Berge before entering the market, the system the Serb looks set to employ is radically different to the one utilised by his predecessor.
The role David McGoldrick was asked to perform during last week’s friendly against Doncaster Rovers, one of only two United have contested because of the Covid-19 pandemic, suggests Jokanovic is attempting to mirror the tactics he used at Fulham before Aleksandar Mitrovic’s arrival, with the former Republic of Ireland asked to be a false nine rather than out and out striker. Although acquiring Mitrovic on loan was the catalyst for the Londoners climb out of the second tier, the ploy helped them qualify for the play-offs in the first place. Before taking charge at Craven Cottage, Jokanovic also helped Watford secure a seat at English football’s finest table.
“There’s been a lot of change, lots of things have happened and it’s been a strange mix of emotions at times,” Ramsdale admits. “Now it’s back to business.”