Aaron Ramsey hoping to follow in his brother Jacob's footsteps for club and country
Aston Villa and England Under-19 rising star Aaron Ramsey discusses his journey from FC Premier in Great Barr to making ‘a dream come true’ by being selected for this summer’s UEFA U19 EUROs
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When you look at what my brother has been doing this season, I don’t think you can get a much better role model than that; than your brother who is out there and doing it.
It feels strange sometimes because what he is doing is what we have both sat there and dreamed of doing. Because it is now an everyday thing, you don’t always sit down and think about it but it is crazy what he is doing.
I look forward to seeing him play and I watch his games all the time. I am so happy about what he is doing and hopefully, I can be on the pitch alongside him soon.
When I started out playing football around the age of five or six, it was for FC Premier, which was a local team that my mate and his parents made me aware of near where I lived in Great Barr, whereas my brother played for Beacon Colts.
By the time I was seven, I had joined Villa but I was in and out of Villa’s academy [team] and you can’t sign until you were nine, so I used to also play grassroots football. I loved playing Sunday league football because it was a different kind of game to academy football.
Sometimes I actually preferred to play for the Sunday league team but then when you get to under-9s, you sign the contract and then your full focus is on the academy football.
At that age, you just enjoy every time you get on the ball and just love the game. It is as easy as that. You just play with your mates and play with a smile on your face. That is the biggest thing about grassroots football. Just playing with your mates and enjoying it.
When I was at Pheasey Park Farm Primary School, we didn’t have a football team until the last year but we ended up representing Aston Villa in a schools’ tournament at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester. You had to win your area and teams across Birmingham and other sides would represent Manchester for Man City, for example. We did pretty well as we got out of our group stage before getting knocked out but it meant that was the first stadium I had properly played in was the Etihad!
When I moved to Barr Beacon School, I was in year seven and my brother was in year nine so we were together for quite a bit of school. Unfortunately, I just missed out on my little brother who is 15 joining the school but hopefully he is looking after himself! I also have an older sister as well who is 21.
Growing up, the three boys used to play football in the garden and at the park. You couldn’t get much better than that.
My dad is also an ex-boxer so in the summer when we had finished our football season, he used to take us to the boxing gym, Small Heath (now the Pat Benson Boxing Academy). My dad fought Ricky Hatton twice and only lost both fights on points so he was good.
We were a very sporting household. That boxing fitness helps and we still do that even now.
Me and my brother try to help each other in our careers. We both watch each other’s games and if I need advice, I go to him and he will give me honest feedback and if he wants advice then he comes to me as well – things like what should I have done here, what did you think, how do you think I played?
After a game, he is an honest guy and he tells you if he thinks you have had a good game.
I have been at Villa since I was seven so this season was my first time away from the club [on loan at Cheltenham Town] and a different environment, which has been good and I have enjoyed it. I’ve felt like it’s given me the opportunity to learn a lot about the game and myself by putting me out of my comfort zone and in a different league, setup and playing with other players.
I’m not the only one in the Villa Under 23s squad who has played men’s football this season, so it’s good to see everyone succeeding in their own ways. Going away and playing in a different league develops your leadership and other things that you are learning in men’s football, and now my aim is to use that experience and learnings in my games.
Everyone develops at different points and some players might not be playing men’s football now but they could be the best of the lot in a couple of years.
When Aston Villa had their FA Youth Cup run when we won it, I was playing in big stadiums and now I want to get to the stage where I am playing in those kinds of stadiums every week.
Being selected in Ian Foster’s Men’s Under 19s EURO squad is a dream come true. The team has a real togetherness out here in Slovakia and we had a strong start with a 2-0 win over Austria. We’ve got two tough games coming up against Serbia and Israel so hopefully we can get the job done.
Highlights: England 2-0 Austria
See the best of the action from Slovakia as the Young Lions start the U19 EURO with a win