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10 celebrities that failed to become footballers, ahead of the Oscars

| 28.02.2016

Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | February 17, 2016

In light of the 88th Academy Awards ceremony coming up, on February 28th, Coral sports writers have decided to tie in the Oscars and football.

We’ve picked 10 celebrities that at one stage looked destined to become footballers, but for various reasons made their way to fame by another route.

Ahead of this year’s Oscars, The Revenant looks set to sweep most of the awards, with the film itself at 8/15 to win Best Picture, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu at 1/9 for Best Director and Leonardo DiCaprio heavily odds-on at 1/100 to finally claim his first Best Actor accolade.

Spotlight (9/4) and The Big Short (5/1) are more enticing prices to take in the former category, but read on to find out our list of celebs that could’ve made their name on the football field instead…

Nicky Byrne

We start off with Irish singer-songwriter Byrne, who is known for being one of five members of former pop boy band Westlife but was once on the verge of becoming a professional goalkeeper.

After winning the FA Youth Cup with Leeds United, he returned to his homeland to play for the likes of Shelbourne and Cobh Ramblers, but was eventually forced to change profession due to his lack of height.

Nicky Byrne playing for Rest of the World team celebrates after scoring against an England team during the Soccer Aid 2014 charity soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Sunday June 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Santiago Cabrera

Being born in Venezuela to Chilean parents and then brought up in England, Romania, Canada and Spain, Cabrera is not only multilingual but also multi-talented having previously played as a semi-pro footballer for London clubs before becoming an actor.

A star in TV series’ such as Heroes, Merlin, Aramis and The Musketeers – as well as in the 2014 Soccer Aid event at Old Trafford – could QPR fan Cabrera be a future Oscar nominee or even winner?

Rest of the World's Santiago Cabrera attempts a scissor kick, during the Soccer aid charity match at Old Trafford, Manchester.

Sir Sean Connery

The most famous James Bond is the only Oscar winner on this list, claiming Best Supporting Actor in 1987 for his role in The Untouchables – an award which renowned Everton fan Sylvester Stallone (4/11) and Mark Rylance (5/2) are the frontrunners to achieve this year in Creed and Bridge of Spies respectively.

However, it is lesser known that he was once approached by compatriot and fellow Scottish great Matt Busby, who was on a scouting mission, to play for his Manchester United side on a £25-a-week contract.

Connery, while apparently tempted, rejected the offer after claiming his career would be over in seven years anyway as he was 23 at the time, so decided to concentrate on acting. It turned out to be a wise choice, though not the only job he turned down, after reportedly declining to play the part of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Sean Connery holds his first Oscar statuette at the 60th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles, Ca., April 11, 1988. Connery won for best supporting actor for his role in "The Untouchables." (AP Photo/Lennox McLendon)

Steve Harris

Heavy metal band Iron Maiden’s founder and longest serving member Harris, who is still their bassist and primary songwriter, once had trials for nearby club West Ham United, whose crest he proudly displays on his guitar.

It is said that renowned scout Wally St Pier, who discovered the likes of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and Frank Lampard, spotted a young Harris in the 1970s, but in the end his heart was set on music.

Iron Maiden in concert at the O2 World. Berlin, 18.06.2013

Bob Mortimer

One of the country’s finest and wittiest comedians, and one half of double act Vic and Bob, Mortimer was once an aspiring footballer and had trials for home team Middlesbrough.

Due to arthritis, he was unable to fulfil his dreams on the football field, but instead has seen his TV career span three decades.

Vic Reeves (L) and Bob Mortimer at Too2Much Club in Central London, at the photocall for the release of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's new DVD 'Vic Reeves Big Night Out'.

Sergio Pizzorno

Kasabian guitarist Pizzorno is a staunch Leicester City fan, but actually had trials with East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest as a youngster.

He still has the accolade of scoring the greatest ever goal at Soccer Aid, in which he lobbed former England stopper David Seaman from an incredible angle in 2012.

Gordon Ramsay

Another long-term participant of Soccer Aid, celebrity chef Ramsey, whose restaurants have gained a combined 16 Michelin stars to date, reportedly had trials with the team he supported Rangers.

However, a number of injuries ended his quest to go any further in the game, so he instead transferred his violence from on the pitch to the kitchen.

Ruud Gullit and Gordon Ramsay arrive with the Rest of the World Soccer Aid team for a reception at No. 10 Downing Street, London.

Michael Sheen

One of Wales’ finest exports, it is perhaps surprising that Sheen has never been nominated for an Academy Award, though one of the films he acted in, The Queen, was up for Best Picture in 2006, while Helen Mirren claimed Best Actress.

But, had his family allowed it back when he was 12, Sheen could’ve taken up an offer to be on Arsenal’s books. He did, however, play the part as Brian Clough in The Damned United, where he showcased a skill or two.

British actor Michael Sheen, who plays manager Brian Clough in the film, arrives for the world premiere of The Damned United, in London's Leicester Square, Wednesday, March 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

Matt Smith

Even Dr Who could’ve been a professional footballer, if back injuries hadn’t cut his development short.

Smith, not to be confused with the Fulham striker by the same name, spent time in the youth teams of Northampton Town, Forest and Leicester.

Matt Smith attending the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House, Bow Street, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday February 14, 2016. See PA Story SHOWBIZ Baftas. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Rod Stewart

Being from a footballing supporting family, singer Stewart, known for singles such as Maggie May, Sailing and The First Cut Is the Deepest, has sold over 100m records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

As a teenager, he had trials for Brentford in 1960, but stated his heart was not in it and decided to focus on music. Stewart is a well-known Celtic supporter, though, and was seen crying when they defeated Barcelona in the Champions League, while even mentioned them in his song You’re In My Heart.

Celtic fans Billy Connolly and Rod Stewart watch from the stands


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Sam Barnard

Sam has been writing for Coral since January 2014, and is the assistant editor of the news site. As well as the main betting sports, football, tennis and cricket, he covers the likes of golf, F1 and darts too, the latter of which has become a particular favourite. Sam enjoys playing as much as writing about sports, but niggling injuries have limited his participation in recent years, so is happy to mainly watch the pros such as Manchester United, Yorkshire CCC, Raymond van Barneveld and even Gibraltar national football team instead.