Why Arsenal star Aaron Ramsdale was always destined for big things

Ramsdale, 20, had just signed for AFC Wimbledon on loan in January 2019 and midfielder Wordsworth was blown away by the young keeper’s abilities.

“I still remember that first day,” says Wordsworth. “He made one of the best saves I’ve seen from a goalkeeper with my own eyes live to prevent a volley from Joe Pigott.

“I remember after that training session I called my dad and said, ‘This kid is going to play for England.’ You just knew he was destined for great things.

Wordsworth was right. Fast forward three years and Ramsdale’s fine form for Arsenal is pushing him to replace Jordan Pickford as the new England No.1 ahead of the World Cup.

Ramsdale has had a stellar season since joining Arsenal from Sheffield United last summer for a fee that could potentially top £30m. He helped turn the Gunners defense into a team in command to qualify for the Champions League.

Arsenal F.C. via Getty Images

Arsenal scouted Ramsdale diligently before signing him, with Mikel Arteta talking to Bukayo Saka about what the goalkeeper was like in the English camp.

Arteta also specifically analyzed footage of Ramsdale’s reaction when he conceded or made an error, with the Spaniard adamantly saying he wanted the right character in goal.

If any of these clips belonged to Ramsdale’s loan spell at Wimbledon during the second half of the 2018-19 season, then Arteta will have liked what he saw.

The Dons had attempted to sign Ramsdale the previous year, but injury halted those plans. They returned 12 months later, with some players surprised at his arrival given that fellow goalkeeper Tom King was already on loan from Millwall.

However, it didn’t take long for the team to figure out why the club decided to bring in Ramsdale.

“We were in a relegation fight so we were more direct, but he had a right foot stick,” Wimbledon goalkeeping coach Ashley Bayes said.

“He was an amazing distributor and a brave goalkeeper. I don’t mean brave in terms of diving at the feet of players, I mean in terms of starting positions. He was aggressive with them.

On the pitch, Ramsdale had a huge impact, so much so that he made Wimbledon Team of the Decade despite only being at the club for six months. Wordsworth admits they wouldn’t have survived relegation from League One without him.

But it is also off the pitch that Ramsdale has also made a strong impression.

“He came into the building when he was 20, but you wouldn’t have thought that,” says Bayes. “He had an old head on young shoulders. He was a boss. He was in charge of the locker room.

“He was just talking to everyone from a child coming in to the dinner lady.

“I remember when he arrived, he didn’t know anyone’s name. We had Fleetwood in the FA Cup and he spent the night before in his hotel room learning who everyone was by looking through their photos on the club’s website.

Ramsdale was truly the life and soul of Wimbledon, which is exemplified by the footage Wordsworth has of the goalkeeper celebrating as Dons stays up.

They had just beaten the drop by earning a point at Bradford and Ramsdale gave the bus a personalized rendition of Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven Is A Place On Earth.

“That song he sang there, he made it up at home,” Wordsworth laughs.

“He changed the lyrics to put the names of the players in it. When he produced that on Coach, everyone was in stitches.

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“When you’ve won games, he’s the one who brought the speaker on the bus and created that buzz.”

Hayes and Wordsworth are still in contact with Ramsdale, who comes down to Plow Lane to watch Wimbledon play when he can.

They insist the goalkeeper hasn’t changed and that certainly rings true given that those at Arsenal are portraying a character similar to the one who made his name at Wimbledon.

“After practice he was just sitting at the lunch table and he was the kind of guy that people wanted to be around, he was that type of character,” Wordsworth recalled.

“I didn’t know how old he was and when I found out I was so surprised because to me he was like a seasoned pro.

“Everyone around Wimbledon thought this kid was a bit special – and you can see they were right.”

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