Amputee footballer Rhyce Ramsden on glory, globe-trotting and Jack Grealish

Amputee footballer Rhyce Ramsden on glory, globe-trotting and Jack Grealish

England midfielder Rhyce Ramsden admits amputee football has opened doors he did not realise were accessible to him.

The Everton player has just completed arguably the most successful couple of weeks of his life after scoring twice in the FA Disability Cup final victory over Portsmouth, just days after helping the national team win their first title since 1990.

He has already come a long way since getting on his first flight with the England team just six months into his journey in amputee football.

“I was 16 and had been playing for six months as an amputee when I got called up to go play in the 2017 Euros in Turkey,” Ramsden told the PA news agency.

“Before playing football I’d only ever been on a plane once and been to one other country.

“Now I travel the world – I’ve been to Europe, I’ve been to America, Mexico, it’s just a bit surreal what has happened. Playing in front of 42,000 in Besiktas’ stadium was a good experience.”

Ramsden sports a floppy centre-parting and headband like Manchester City winger Jack Grealish and, while comparisons were made after his performance at the weekend, there were no post-match celebrations to match the treble winner’s party stop in Ibiza.

“I got asked on Saturday when we won the FA Cup if I was going on a three-day bender, but I was back in work in Monday – that was the biggest reality shock,” he added.

“Someone put out a post saying, ‘It’s the one-legged Jack Grealish’, but I wanted to reply saying, ‘No, he’s the two-legged Rhyce Ramsden’.”

Ramsden was born with a tumour above his right knee which resulted in amputation at five months old.

That did not prevent him playing sport alongside his able-bodied friends, but he admits once he joined the amputee football “family” things changed.

“I used to play football with my prosthetic in net for school and one day a coach came down and showed me a couple of clips of amputee football,” he said.

“I went to a training camp wanting to still be a goalkeeper, but in amputee football you have to be an arm amputee to be a goalkeeper so I had to get used to being outfield and once I started playing outfield I stopped wanting to be a goalkeeper straightaway.

“Even if you don’t play sport there is always a place for you.

“There are kids and adults who have lost their legs recently, who never mind playing don’t think they will walk again.

“Then they come down and try it and next thing you know they’ve got the bug.

“Even if you think the worst is going to happen, that’s not the case, always think positive, get yourself involved.”

Ramsden is in good company at Everton as they have six England representatives in the team, who play seven-a-side games which last 50 minutes.

Among his team-mates is Steve Johnson, Everton’s disability manager who was world amputee footballer of the year in 1999, has played in three World Cups and scored an extra-time winner against Brazil in the 1990 World Cup final, England’s last tournament success before their recent Nations League triumph in Poland.

“I first started in 1987 and then there wasn’t social media, so it was just pitches in limb centres and finding players was a real challenge, but it has grown, social media has helped quite a lot,” said Johnson, who has been involved at Everton since 2003.

“Everton has a long history working with disabled people, but we have to generate a lot of those funds ourselves.

Everton’s Steve Johnson is a former world amputee footballer of the year and has played at three World Cups (Everton Handout/PA)

“The FA put a lot of resources into promoting the women’s game and that needs to happen for disability football, not just amputees, to get them challenging for trophies at major competitions.”

Everton in the Community’s disability programme engages more than 200 disabled adults per week and over 400 disabled children and young people each year, offering competitive opportunities for 11 pan-disability and specific impairment teams for children and adults that are available to males and females.

“It is open for anyone who wants to take part, it’s not set in stone. We recruit wherever we can,” said Everton Amputees manager and EitC disability co-ordinator Mark Dolan.

“The pathway is there to go and play for England. We have various different players along the path and Rhyce is an example of one of the up-and-coming players at England.”