Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay might be best known for his foul-mouthed rants around kitchens both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, but the star of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen was close to becoming a professional footballer.
He was brought up on the terraces of Ibrox, watching Rangers with his uncle Roland, becoming a regular at the Glasgow venue until he was 10, when his parents moved down south to Stratford-upon-Avon.
It was there he started to play regularly, and he found he had some talent.
“I did very well,” Ramsay told the Observer Sport Monthly. “I was a naturally aggressive left-back, a cut-throat tackler. You may have got past once but there was never, ever, ever a second occasion. And I was fast, I was a great 100m sprinter. If you were to compare me to anyone, I guess it could be Stuart Pearce.”
He played for Oxford United and was spotted by a Rangers scout while playing a youth match, prompting his family to move back to Scotland so the young Gordon, then aged 15, could be trained by the equivalent of the club’s youth academy.
“My dad was a Rangers fan and fantastically proud of me. But it was hard and very stressful. Never knowing if you were going to make it. I was petrified most of the time,” he admitted.
“The games were really violent, not like the football we see nowadays,” he added, and so it would prove as he suffered a serious knee ligament injury that cut short his career.
Although Ramsay had claimed to have played for the first team on three occasions, this sparked controversy as it appears the claims were inaccurate. He did, however, feature during a testimonial game in September 1985, in which he was listed in the Rangers squad as a trialist.
In 2009, a spokesperson for Ramsay clarified the claims: “Gordon has always down-played his footballing past and been clear about the fact that he never made it to be a professional.
“As detailed in Gordon's autobiography, Humble Pie, Gordon was a promising schoolboy who was monitored by Rangers over a three-year period during his school holidays when he attended their Youth Policy. During this time he played a couple of non-league matches as a trialist. A knee injury put paid to any further hopes of being signed by Rangers.”
While the door to footballing stardom was slammed shut, Ramsay, who has become a regular participant of Soccer Aid, has gone on to achieve tremendous success in the kitchen, receiving three Michelin Stars and, according to Forbes, earning $62 million in 2018, making him the 33rd highest-earning celebrity in the world – putting him behind only Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar from the sport.