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England’s Ramsdale pinching himself after rise to World Cup stage

England goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale is pinching himself after making a rags-to-riches rise from lower league obscurity to the World Cup.

Just three years ago, Ramsdale was an anonymous youngster for whom a World Cup place would have seemed an impossible dream after his parent club Sheffield United sent him on loan to AFC Wimbledon.

The 24-year-old, now thriving with Premier League leaders Arsenal, had already spent time on loan in 2018 with Chesterfield, who were relegated from the fourth tier during his spell there.

Even when Ramsdale finally made it to the Premier League with Bournemouth and then Sheffield United, he suffered successive relegations with those clubs.

But the unglamourous, turbulent beginning to Ramsdale’s career served as a valuable learning curve, giving him time to hone his craft out of the spotlight.

Now he is reaping the rewards after starring for Arsenal during their unexpected climb to the top of the Premier League this season.

While Jordan Pickford is expected to be England’s number one when Garth Southgate’s side start their World Cup campaign against Iran on Monday, Ramsdale has forced his way into the conversation.

The goalkeeper is down to earth enough to realise the odds he has defied to make it to Qatar.

“There’s times when it is a pinch-yourself moment when I speak to my parents or my wife, especially after the first few years of my career in difficult situations,” Ramsdale said at England’s training base in Qatar on Friday.

“I’ve learnt so much in terms of different experiences. I’m now learning the side of the game being top of the table, being in Europe, being in the England squad.

“But those tough moments when certain people have a different outlook, I’ve been able to see from the other side.”

Ramsdale’s road to Qatar came after he watched as a fan during England’s run to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

“There were definitely a few tears shed from my dad when I got named in the squad,” he said. “If I actually make it on the pitch he might not return home. He might have a heart-attack.

“It’s special for family and especially my parents who have driven me up and down the country and around the world. He won’t have any nails left.”

Ramsdale and fellow England keeper Nick Pope have been keeping the pressure on Everton star Pickford in training.

“I see it as it is,” Ramsdale said. “You need three goalkeepers to train properly to get the number one to his best.

“Whoever gets that first game will have our full support. You never know with tournament football. You always have to be ready to be called upon.”

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