Page last updated at 09:44 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 10:44 UK

5m Ramsey 'popular and talented'

Kevin Leonard
BBC news website

Aaron Ramsey at school
Ramsey at his old school shortly after his Cardiff City debut

Teenage football sensation Aaron Ramsey's career could have taken a very different route if a rugby league coach had got his way.

While playing for his school rugby league team a couple of years ago, he caught the eye of a St Helens coach.

But Ramsey, 17 and from Caerphilly, had already signed for Cardiff City so rugby's loss became football's gain.

Now he is heading to Premier League giants Arsenal for 5m despite bids from Manchester United and Everton.

Rhys Thomas, assistant head teacher at Ramsey's old school Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni near Blackwood, said: "Aaron had played for the school rugby league team against St Helens.

School athletics team
Ramsey (back row, second from right) with his school athletics team

"One of the St Helens coaches enquired about him, asking if he played for a team.

"But our head of PE Jeremy Evans told him he had already signed for a team, but it wasn't a rugby league team!"

Mr Thomas, a Cardiff City season ticket holder, said Ramsey was an excellent all-round athlete who excelled at many sports.

"He was 800m champion at athletics for the whole of Wales in year 8 when he was about 13," said Mr Thomas.

Ramsey, a Welsh speaker, also did well academically despite his commitments with Cardiff City.

"He got 10 or 11 GCSEs and had an A* in physical education," said Mr Thomas.

Aaron Ramsey
Born: December 26, 1990 in Caerphilly
Club: Cardiff City
Career: Debut in April 2007 v Hull, aged 16 years 123 days broke John Toshack's club record and he has since made 22 full and substitute appearences
First goal: v Chasetown in the FA Cup
Record breaker: Youngest Cardiff player ever at 16 years and 124 days
Car: Lime green Ford Fiesta
Nickname: Rambo

"The final two years of GCSEs, he was out of school quite frequently with football but still did ever so well.

"He could probably have done four A-levels no problem at all.

"He was very normal and popular among his peers.

"There was no element of him being pompous or big headed."

And Ramsey, whose brother Josh attends the school, certainly shone on the football field, with Mr Thomas fondly remembering a tournament at Pontllanfraith.

"I remember thinking then about how good his balance was," he said.

"The ball was glued to his feet and he nearly won us the tournament on his own!"

Ramsey's talent was first spotted when his mother took him to a football session in Caerphilly run by the Urdd Welsh language youth movement.

Aaron Ramsey
Welsh schools 800m champion Ramsey, aged 13

Gary Lewis, who was sports officer for the Urdd at the time, said Ramsey was only six so was too young to play.

But his mother brought him back the following year and, with Mr Lewis also coaching youngsters at Cardiff City, he was soon snapped up by the Bluebirds.

"What is great is that he's never forgotten he started at the Urdd and he always gives us a mention," said Mr Lewis, who is now the Urdd's national sports development manager.

"He always had something special and always played with a smile.

"Whenever he was in the team you always had a chance.

"He's also a very down-to-earth-lad."

Ramsey has also been a big hit with Cardiff City supporters, and not just on the field where he has made 22 appearances since his debut as a 16-year-old.

Aaron Ramsey at school
Head teacher Hefin Mathias with Ramsey just after his Bluebirds debut

Cardiff City Supporters' Club spokesperson Vince Alm said Ramsey was a pleasant, unassuming teenager.

"Just like on the field he's very mature for his age and a credit to his parents," said Mr Alm.

"When he speaks he thinks about what he's saying and he thinks a lot about the game.

"He was great at the supporters' club Christmas party with the kids signing shirts."

So success has not changed Ramsey, and he still pops into his old school about once a week despite attracting so much attention.

"He's starting to get mobbed now by the children and has to sneak in and out!" said Mr Thomas.

"All the dinner ladies want his autograph!"

Everton join race to sign Ramsey
04 Jun 08 |  Cardiff
Children of Flynn's revolution
27 May 08 |  League of Wales
Ramsey must be playing - Toshack
26 May 08 |  Cardiff
Ramsey makes history for Cardiff
28 Apr 07 |  Cardiff

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