One year on from receiving threatening online abuse ahead of his move to Arsenal, goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale is targeting the number one shirt for England at the World Cup.
The 24-year-old had to win over Gunners supporters following his arrival from Sheffield United last summer.
Back-to-back relegations from the Premier League – first with Bournemouth, then with the Blades – and an initial transfer fee of £24million saw an online backlash against Ramsdale which led to him turning off his comments on social media.
“At the very start it was difficult,” he admits.
“I had a lot of negativity around the signing, with idiots saying don’t sign online. Not necessarily death threats but threats saying, ‘we know where you live’ and things like that. Trying to scare me.
“Quite quickly I turned all that stuff off. Social media for me is a place to communicate with my friends and with the fans as well, but with limits on who can actually reach me.
“It was safer for me, but also my family as well. My mum and dad are obviously on social media. They don’t really know what they are doing, but it’s quite easy for them to type in ‘Ramsdale’ on Twitter to get to my page and end up on a page where there is a lot of negativity and abuse and then they read it and get upset. So it did make me feel a lot safer.”
Ramsdale’s first few weeks in north London are covered in depth in the latest Amazon series ‘All or Nothing: Arsenal’, which launches on August 4.
As well as showing his clear desire to win, Ramsdale is also hopeful that it will show viewers that there is a negative side to the job.
Asked what he hopes fans will take from the documentary, he replied: “How hard it is to be a footballer.
“One of the best jobs in the world, but one of the worst at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me preaching like, ‘oh everyone feel sorry for us’, but the time away from families, kids and living out of a suitcase, traveling.
“I just hope that from what comes out they get to see that we are just human, and you get to see us enjoying ourselves but that at times we are suffering together. I think that’s the hardest thing to get out.
“Everyone thinks football is easy, you’re on the pitch two or three hours and you go home, but it’s just not like that.”
Ramsdale’s parents are also interviewed in episode one of the series, both his mother and father support his career passionately and attend most games.
Gunners boss Mikel Arteta even reached out and spoke to Ramsdale’s dad, Nick, before rubber-stamping his signing.
“I think the first phone call I had with the boss it went really well. He was quizzing me on football, which was quite easy for me as I love football,” added Ramsdale.
“He started asking me about the family and things and he personally asked to ring my dad – it was just one of those things, to know that the manager wants to find out about your family and it wasn’t about him telling my dad, ‘this is the best place for him’ and trying to get me to sign.
“It was actually just finding out what I’m like as a person, what the family is like and you can just feel the culture he has created at the club.
“I wouldn’t want my dad to try and gloss over anything or build me and the family up, we are what we are. We are a family from Stoke and we’ve been fortunate to be on a journey together through my career.”
Ramsdale’s family were also in attendance for his senior England debut in the 10-0 World Cup qualifying win away to San Marino in November.
He had been part of Gareth Southgate’s squad to reach the Euro 2020 final without making an appearance and then was forced to sit out the March international break earlier this year through injury.
After starting two of England’s four Nations League fixtures at the end of last season, including a 4-0 defeat to Hungary, Ramsdale has a chance of keeping the gloves heading to Qatar for the World Cup this winter.
“I’m in and around it at the moment,” he said.
“But things can change very quickly, especially this season there is going to be Jordan (Pickford), myself, Sam Johnstone, Dean Henderson, Nick Pope and probably some others.
“There are probably going to be five or six English goalkeepers trying to get on the plane so although I’m around at the moment I need to keep myself there.
“Off the pitch he (Southgate) is very similar to Mikel, I think that was one of Gareth’s main things to get into the national team – about being together, about being as one and there are definitely similarities between them off the pitch.
“I think the way it is going with social media and mental health it is great to see these sorts of managers are now coming in and it is changing the game for the better.”