Ramsdale on the importance of the team behind the team

Ramsdale on the importance of the team behind the team

OUR KEEPER ON HOW THE TOGETHERNESS FROM THE CLUB AS A WHOLE - NOT JUST HIS TEAMMATES – HAS BEEN OF VITAL IMPORTANCE TO HIM SO FAR THIS SEASON

This season has obviously been very different from Aaron Ramsdale’s first couple of years at the club. Having established himself as the No. 1 soon after arriving from Sheffield United in the summer of 2021, he’s found minutes harder to come by this season, with David Raya regularly between the sticks in the Champions League and Premier League.

Always a lively, effervescent character around the changing room, Aaron admits he’s been ‘more reserved’ this season but that he will always be a vocal part of the team. That’s something that’s been within him
since his very early days in the sport, right back to starting out in schoolboy football. So what was the young Aaron like around the team as a young lad?

“Well I was more stupid than I am now!” he smiles. “I was more easily influenced then as well, by those wanting me to have a laugh. Especially when I got into first-team dressing rooms, the older pros were always encouraging me to do things. But I’ve never really been quiet. I always seemed to gravitate towards the older professionals and they always wanted me to just be myself.

"I’d say I’ve calmed down a bit now, because of where I’ve got to and the situation I’m in. You’ve got to be more reserved and pick your times of when to have a laugh and a joke.”

Being the centre of attention and focal point of the dressing room has always been something he’s enjoyed though, and again dates back to his very early days of being part of a team.

“When I was at school with my mates, firstly we had a really good team,” he recalls. “There was me and a lad who used to play for Crewe, and three or four others who had been on trial at pro clubs. The other half of the team all played for the same Sunday team, so we had a good group anyway. But being an academy boy, they obviously looked to me to be the best I could, and that was always the case.

“When I was in goal playing against schoolboys and Sunday League footballers, obviously I never wanted to concede to them. I wanted to show how good I was. That pressure was always there, but I enjoyed it. It was good fun. If it wasn’t the boy playing for Crewe scoring the goals, it was me keeping them out, so between us we did well.”

So with those powers of communication, and eagerness to be vocal, was he ever a captain at youth level?

“No, one of the reasons is probably the age-old thing of people not wanting goalkeepers as captains. I might have done it for the odd reserve game, but never was made captain. Goalies and armbands don’t seem to go together often, you see the odd one, maybe the more experienced ones. I was always loud, you don’t need an armband to be able to talk.

“Before a game I’m actually quite quiet in the dressing room and focussing on what I need to do. I’ve never been one to rant and rave before a game, probably on the basis that if you give it out to people, then don’t do your own job properly, it can come back on you. So it’s usually more half-time or after the game that I speak more.

"Before the game the communication is usually more individual, about giving each other confidence rather than coaching or anything. As soon as I get on the pitch though, that’s when the level goes up and I’m into the fine details of the game, what we worked on and how to stop the opposition.”

It’s having to deal with time away from the action this season though, that has been more of a challenge for Aaron. He’s played at least 19 league games in each of the past six seasons before this one – basically since making his league debut with Chesterfield back in 2017/18 as a teenager. So this is new territory for the England stopper, who featured in our 1-0 win away to Brentford back in November.

That’s where his co-workers have come in – and not just his teammates and coaching staff. He says the togetherness and companionship of the team behind the team has been as precious to him as ever.

"Goalies and armbands don’t seem to go together often. I was always loud, you don’t need an armband to be able to talk"

“For me the physios, masseurs, kitmen, restaurant staff – I’d actually say they are as important as the coaching staff for that side of it,” he says. “For morale, team spirit and just being a shoulder to lean on, somebody to speak to away from the football world.

“It’s very well known that kitmen are usually the life and soul of a football club, and it’s no different here. But we also have so many people around the training ground in various roles. Geri and Toni who work in the restaurant have been here for a long, long time, Dave in reception, Sean O’Connor obviously. They have seen everything and it’s good to talk with them about everything and anything. To keep a football club going in a positive way, away from football, I think these people are so, so important.

“The number of games we play, whether we have got back late from an away game and you are in the next morning, or you’ve not had a day off in 20 days, or you are missing your kid’s birthday – it’s just good to talk that over with people.

"That’s why I love chatting with Geri and Toni for example, they care about the football but they care much more about how you are on the human side. They will ask you about your family every single day, so you find out about their families too. So especially the boys who are injured, or out of form or whatever, it takes you away from that footballing world. It normalises you and your situation.

"Then after chatting with them you go downstairs and you have Will and DJ the kitmen doing all sorts of jokes. Then you go and have a massage, and we have five or six masseurs and a masseuse so depending on how you are feeling that day and who you want to chat with, they are available. These people are more important than anyone in terms of team bonding.”

Has that been the case more than ever this season, given his lack of playing time?

“You could say that,” the 25-year-old continues, “but to be honest I tend to spend a lot of time with the kitmen, or Stu the photographer, or Jonny the chef or Toni and Geri. Last year myself, Dan who was our player liaison, Adam who works at the training ground and Jonesy the kitman – we completed our Panini sticker albums. Every morning I would be down in their office with them, spending hours swapping stickers.

“Of course they have all helped this season too, especially Geri and Toni. Being a new father now as well we can talk about that and it takes your mind off everything else.

“I’ve always been close to the kitmen at any club I’ve been at, because they are always the most normal, down-to-earth people and they work so hard because the hours are crazy. They live and breathe it, they are usually bonkers as well, so I love having a cup of tea with them.”

"the physios, masseurs, kitmen, restaurant staff – I’d actually say they are as important as the coaching staff"

Having this support network around you is one of the benefits of playing in a team sport. Aaron is also a keen golfer, and he says that the mindset of being an individual athlete is vastly different to a footballer – both on and off the playing surface.

“Yeah it must be completely different,” he says. “As a goalkeeper we have a different mindset to the players anyway, but in an individual sport, I imagine that would be even more acute. It’s hard to imagine, because it’s completely different, but they can’t rely on anyone else. I knowa few professional golfers, but for them a solo sport is all they’ve known, like for me I’ve only known team sports. It’s just normal for us.

"I haven’t really discussed it much with them but if I listen to a podcast about it, it’s interesting to hear their take on it, and pick parts out of it that resonate with me. As a goalkeeper you have your mechanisms to get over it if you make a mistake, but you still have ten other people to help you out. Whereas a golfer, it’s all on you for the next shot.

“Some of those devices will cross over though, for sure, because it’s about how quickly you can get out of situations. You can’t dwell on anything in either sport, but for me if I make a mistake, I might not touch the ball again for ten minutes. A golfer though could put it in the water, make a seven, and then has to take his next shot moments later. They have to get over things a lot quicker as an individual.”

And this is where the supporters also play a part. From the moment he made his debut, our goalie has enjoyed a special bond with the fanbase, going through the highs and lows with them, and becoming an ever more popular figure among the stands.

“Especially this year with the situation I’ve found myself in, they have been extra special,” he states. “Even before games when my name is read out, I’ve heard the cheers, and warming up people still want to give me a wave. I think that’s kept me going more than I realised this season. Home and away I’ve always felt the love, heard chants, and that’s not something the second goalkeeper will get at many other places.

“So for sure, that’s been a massive boost for me. It could have been easy going through the season thinking you are forgotten about, but it’s been special during a difficult time, with how much love they’ve shown. Obviously fans have their favourites, but personally I think they’ve shown huge respect to both goalkeepers.

"They’ve supported whoever plays, and I think that shows great unity from the fanbase. They want the team to do well, the team comes first and I can’t thank them enough for what they do. What they do for the team in general is outstanding.”

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