Having failed to make the grade as a teenager at Chelsea, the personal trainer is now living the life of an Instagram superstar
Bradley Simmonds, a discarded Chelsea academy prospect, reached out to his boyhood hero John Terry on Instagram. It was a moment that would eventually see him return to football after injury wrecked his dream of making it as a professional in his own right.
Simmonds was once a centre-back who rolled up his sleeves and pretended to be Terry when playing in Chelsea’s youth sides, but he dropped out of the game rapidly after leaving Cobham in an attempt to forge his own path in the game.
Now a personal trainer, Simmonds’ first high-profile client was Terry and his direct message to the legendary defender kicked off a meteoric rise in the world of fitness for footballers and celebrities.
There are the 332,000 Instagram followers, the offers to go on Love Island and a physique any man would die for but all the fame and success was built on the back of footballing failure.
He may never have been a Mason Mount or a Tammy Abraham but Simmonds turned his shattered dreams, his shattered ankle and damaged cruciate knee ligament into something that all at Cobham should be proud of.
“The problem with me was my injuries,” Simmonds tells Goal. “I did my anterior cruciate ligament by going into an aggressive challenge. That’s something I probably do regret. I just loved getting stuck in then my fitness was never really 100 per cent.
“I had two operations. It was only meant to be six months but I had a bad operation so I needed another operation which extended it to 10 months. I lost my confidence and I came back really heavy.
“I was smashing the weights because I had so much time. When I was in rehab, I was excited for lunch because I spent a lot of time alone and then at lunch I could be with the boys again. I used to put a lot of food on my plate.
“Then I got released, simply just because at the time I was not good enough and injuries affected that. I went to Iceland and I had a really good spell with IBV. It was the top division of Iceland and I was in the Europa League, which was a great experience.
“Then in one of my last games, I snapped my ankle. It was really tough. My agent at the time had got me a trial at Caen in France. I was absolutely devastated. It took me a while to get back from that.
“I was thinking about going to America and MLS to get a trial over there but my heart and mind wasn’t ready for it. So I decided to stop playing football completely and start a new career.”
After walking out of the Chelsea gates, Simmonds joined Queens Park Rangers where he had a realistic chance of breaking through but he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his first week at the club.
The operation afterwards was botched which forced him to have another and it extended his period out to 10 months. By the time he returned, Neil Warnock had left Loftus Road and under Mark Hughes and Harry Redknapp he never got a look in.
He would go on loan to two non-league clubs where he would lose his love for the sport due to the drop in levels. His time in Iceland was a success but the ankle break was the final straw in the battle to keep the dream alive.
Luck is one of the key ingredients to making it in football and it is just as easy to fall out of the game. Even today, it is clear that Simmonds’ Chelsea connections have continued to help.
Terry is known for taking an interest in the development of all Chelsea academy graduates whether they make the first-team, play in the lower leagues or drop out of the game completely.
“I was playing centre back at first [in the academy] and I would always pull my sleeves up and try to be like John Terry,” he continued. “I remember I used to do a boot camp with 60 people and I had to put my equipment all back in my tiny Smart Car.
“I got a follow from John Terry. I was properly buzzing. I decided to message him and offered my services. He said ‘yes, my wife would love to train and would you like to do it with my family and me?’
“I was like ‘wow, this is a dream come true, this is mad!’ I went to the Chelsea training ground first and I drove there in my Smart Car. I saw my old team-mate Nathaniel Chalobah driving out in his Range Rover at the same time and I am in this tiny car.
“He is like ‘yes, Simmo, what are you doing here?!’
“I was like I am about to train John Terry and he was buzzing for me. I sat down with John Terry and I was star struck massively. He is a Chelsea legend and I grew up playing for Chelsea.
“That’s when the relationship started. The following day the training started and I have been training him and his family for five years since then.”
This is where Simmonds began his ascendancy: training Terry led to more social media followers, more clients and a boosted reputation.
Everton’s Theo Walcott followed and used Simmonds while at Arsenal in a year where he scored 20 goals and earned caps for England.
He also spent time working as a body double for both Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who at the time was at Arsenal. It was here that he got a reminder of his talents from a chance meeting with the best player that he played alongside, Raheem Sterling.
“I had just finished football and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” he says. “I joined Sports On Screen as a body double for Aaron Ramsey and Jordan Henderson.
“I was on set for Nivea for Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling was there. Sterling was like ‘yeah, this lad was a very, very good player. A proper player.’
“That made me realise that I was a good player but these injuries killed me. For me, that came from best I have ever played with.”
Simmonds remains close to many footballers from his playing days and remains in the world of football having trained Brendan Rodgers in the past which led to further sessions with his players.
He is currently filming a documentary and working with names like Love Island’s Caroline Flack and I’m A Celebrity star Roman Kemp.
The Simmonds name will stay associated with Chelsea through his brother James, who despite being let go as a player, is now coaching the Under-18s.
The message Simmonds sends is being dropped isn’t the end of the road if you don’t want it to be. Lessons learned from Terry, Rodgers and his favourite coach Eddie Newton make him yet another a successful Chelsea academy graduate… albeit in a different field.
“Don’t get me wrong, if someone said: ‘Do you want to be a professional footballer in the Premier League?’ then I would snap their fingers off and take it. That was my dream and I would still love to do that.
“But if things don’t work out there are loads of things you can do depending on what your interests are. You should use being dropped from professional football to motivate you to go onto something else, rather than to wallow and go down the wrong path. I love what I do now and hope to inspire, motivate and educate.”
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