8 celebrities you had no idea were good at football
A lot of us would snatch at the chance to become a footballers – but others have turned it down and gone on to become (argubly) just as successful...
1. Johnny Marr
The Smiths’ legendary guitarist was spotted with Noel Gallagher celebrating Manchester City’s league triumph at the Etihad in 2015 and even played a few riffs of How Soon Is Now during their Premier League opening party in 2014 when he was introduced on stage by Dennis Tueart.
It could have been a different story if a trial with his beloved Sky Blues had worked out, though. Marr said: “I didn't take football seriously enough to push it to the next level. I'd go for a trial and take to the pitch wearing eyeliner. Half the opposition team were looking at the mascara and thinking, 'We'd better stay away from him'. The other half just wanted to kick lumps out of me.”
2. Matt Smith
The 11th Doctor Who played for Nottingham Forest’s youth team alongside Jermaine Jenas, Michael Dawson and Andy Reid. He was approached for a trial by Leicester City as well before a back injury intervened at 15. Lord Matt of Smithington, as his jealous schoolmates nicknamed him, was devastated at having to shift to drama.
Smith was later prevented from playing in a Tuesday night pub league by the BBC during filming of the sci-fi series. “I guess it’s the insurance companies and, realistically, if I turn my ankle over and we can’t shoot, then we’re s****ed, aren’t we?” he conceded.
3. Sean Connery
The best 007 of them all could have been a Red Devil. Sir Matt Busby spotted the part-time actor playing football when the young Scot was on a tour with his South Pacific cast members. Busby offered him a £25 a week contract immediately after the match."I really wanted to accept because I loved football," recalled Connery. "But I realised that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23."
Bonnyrigg Juniors in Midlothian was as good as it got for cinema’s smoothest British agent. A local remembers: "He talked to everyone; just like what you see now. And handsome; all the girls loved him. He had this brown corduroy jacket; the height of fashion then – for Bonnyrigg anyway – and we all wanted one like it."
4. Leonard Rossiter
Rossiter, affectionately known for his role in the '70s comedy classic Rising Damp, was an exceptional football talent. He scored all 11 goals in a schoolboy match and was extremely competitive: "I like to win. Fooling around in sport is very tedious," he once said.
A staunch Evertonian, he was apparently tracked by the Toffees at one stage, although grammar school boys weren't able to sign contracts. After the 1966 World Cup Final, a young Rossiter had a Mr Rigsby moment when he brought down the ceiling light in the flat below after celebrating England’s victory.
5. Ricky Tomlinson
The patriarch of The Royle Family, Tomlinson’s football 'highlight' for the mainstream was his role as Mike Bassett: England Manager, a mockumentary of an antiquated gaffer from the lower divisions who suddenly becomes national boss.
Tomlinson described Bassett as a mix of Bill Shankly, Lawrie McMenemy, Big Ron and Barry Fry. Once upon a time, the Liverpudlian showed talent himself and was offered a trial by Scunthorpe. He chose playing the banjo in the city’s pubs instead. Football My Arse, indeed...
6. Sir David Frost
Frost was a keen goalkeeper but could have been a centre-forward for Nottingham Forest. A club scout was present when he scored eight goals with eight shots at a school match and offered to sign him up. Opta would have been impressed.
Frost chose to go to Cambridge instead, where he honed the debating skills he subsequently brought out when interviewing Brian Clough two months after Old Big ‘Ead was sacked by Leeds in 1974.
Both Clough and Frost were portrayed on screen by Michael Sheen, who was offered a place in Arsenal’s youth team at the age of 12 and is a regular captain in the Soccer Aid matches.
7. Luciano Pavarotti
Aside from Gazza’s tears, the other abiding memory of Italia 90 was Luciano Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma married to the visual image of Marco Tardelli wheeling away in celebration on the BBC credits.
A lifelong Juventus fan and the only boy of the family, Pavarotti had serious aspirations to be a professional footballer, playing in goal for his local junior side in Modena. He was given a trial by the seniors, who apparently thought it was a good idea to stick him out on the wing.
Singing won out in the end, but when the tenor died in 2007, Juve sent a representative to his funeral. Gianluigi Buffon paid tribute by declaring “Italy has lost a No.1”.
8. Julio Iglesias
The global musical lothario got his first feel of crowd appreciation on the football pitch. Rising through the ranks of the junior league, he became a keeper for Real Madrid Castilla (B team) in the '60s. Julio loved being loved: "You feel 50,000 people in the stadium and you go on the grass and the magic starts."
A near-fatal car crash left him temporarily paralysed at the age of 19 and changed the course of his career – as over 300 million record sales testify. The old crooner can still see the romance of football. He once said of Cristiano Ronaldo: "It’s not easy to be handsome and a good footballer." Well, we guess Julio almost knows how CR7 feels...