Welcome to the jungle?
Some footballers go into coaching once they've hung up their boots, while others prefer to give their opinions as a pundit. Others, at least for a short time, opt for a completely different route: Masterchef, I'm a Celebrity and Dancing on Ice.
In this slideshow, we honour those ex-players who tried something completely different by becoming reality TV stars. Now where did we put our plate of scorpions?
Mills was a surprise hit on Celebrity Masterchef in 2012, when he reached the final. The ex-defender’s offering of smoked duck breast followed by sea bream and trout on an aubergine puree did go down well with the judges, but he was edged out by actress and TV presenter Emma Kennedy.
The former England right-back clearly likes his grub: he later helped save the West Cornwall Pasty Company from going out of business after they fell into administration in 2014.
When the Stoke left-back’s wife, Nermina Pieters-Mekic, agreed to sign up to ITV show The Real Housewives of Cheshire, her husband was always likely to get dragged into the drama. And so it proved in November, when Pieters – while attending a christening party hosted by former team-mate Phil Bardsley – got involved in a row with a co-star.
Pieters-Mekic took exception when Ester Dee suggested it was easy to marry a footballer rather than pursuing a career, with the Stoke defender quick to back up his wife. Brownie points to Erik.
Redknapp was crowned King of the Jungle in 2018, beating former Inbetweeners actress Emily Atack to the I’m a Celebrity gong, which we presume takes pride of place on his mantelpiece – above even his FA Cup winner’s medal from a decade earlier.
Redknapp wasn’t afraid to show his soft side in the jungle, with the former manager winning the hearts of viewers across the country when he professed his love for wife Sandra. Let’s just hope Niko Kranjcar wasn’t listening.
The former Arsenal goalkeeper hung up his gloves in January 2004; a few months later, he was starring in Strictly Ice Dancing as a replacement for Paul Gascoigne, who was originally supposed to appear on the show instead of his former England team-mate. Seaman then proceeded to do a Denmark at Euro ’92, winning the competition despite his late call-up.
He only managed to finish fourth in Dancing on Ice two years later, but came away with a better prize: Seaman married dance partner Frankie Poultney in 2015.
John Fashanu finished runner-up of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2003, when he performed five Bushtucker trials and gave the injured Wayne Sleep a piggyback to the lavatory.
Later that year, the former Wimbledon marksman presented Fash's Football Challenge, where he managed an amateur team that included a former Mr Wales and a full-time Versace model. FFT wonders what sort of initiation they'd have received from the Crazy Gang.
Haven of calm Stan Collymore walked out of Channel Five's The Farm in October 2004 after a four-letter bust-up with none other than one-hit wonder Vanilla Ice. The incident that sparked the ex-Liverpool man's exit? The length of time the rapper spent on the bog.
"[He's always] on the toilet," Collymore huffed to his fellow contestants. "Doesn't it bother any of you?" Just you then, Stan.
The former Southampton, Liverpool and West Ham defender is a semi-regular presence on TV these days, with his first notable appearance coming on the third series of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, where he lasted only 11 days despite being the bookmakers’ favourite to triumph. He was later named as one of “most annoying” contestants in the programme’s history by The Telegraph.
Ruddock released a charity single following his ejection from the jungle, before going on to appear in Celebrity Big Brother in 2013.
The West Ham vice-chairwoman showed her smart business brain when she led the girl’s team to victory on Comic Relief Does The Apprentice in 2007. Brady then featured as a guest interviewer in Series Four of the regular show, before becoming a permanent aide to Lord Sugar in subsequent editions.
“You can always tell whether Alan is in a good or bad mood if we are filming on a Saturday if his team has won or lost. And vice versa with me,” Brady said of the former Tottenham chairman in September.
“People are going to find out stuff about me they might find surprising, in particular my love of Shakespeare and art,” former Manchester City and QPR forward Marsh claimed before entering I'm A Celebrity in 2007.
It didn’t take Rodders long to slip into old habits, though. When he was beaten in a task by American model Janice Dickinson, he moaned: "I lost to a f***ing woman," before adding with desperation: "Joke, joke, joke.”
Dyer entered the I’m a Celebrity jungle in 2015, narrowly missing out on the final despite almost quitting the show after a blazing row with Lady Colin-Campbell,
The former Newcastle midfielder admitted to hating spiders and snakes but put on a brave face throughout his 21 days on the show because he didn’t to look like a “wuss”. It’s a shame ITV didn’t incorporate Lee Bowyer into one of his bushtucker trials.
Peter Schmeichel appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2006, with judge Arlene Phillips praising his "heart, soul and footwork" – although she did also politely label the Great Dane "cumbersome".
"I have no luck on my birthdays," Schmeichel Sr. sobbed, in an attempt to explain why he finished bottom of both the judges' and viewers' poll. "I once missed World Cup qualification on my birthday. I'm used to it."
Football’s love machine fell for Abi Titmuss’s cleavage on the original series of Celebrity Love Island in 2005, memorable chiefly for Kelly Brook’s wooden presentation and Patrick Kielty’s inability to deliver anything resembling humour.
The former Manchester United man has also appeared on Celebrity Wrestling, Dancing on Ice, Saturday Night Takeaway and Charity Lord of the Rings. Busy boy.
Wright became the latest ex-footballer to take part in I’m a Celebrity in November, joining Cliff Parisi, Kate Garraway and Roman Kemp (don’t ask us) in the jungle. As a result, the former England international Match of the Day sofa for a while – although he insists that’s not entirely a bad thing.
“I'll miss football. I love football, it's my whole life,” Wright said before entering. "But I won’t miss VAR. I'm going in there to get away from VAR.”
Bridge won a Premier League title and 36 England caps during his career, but many I’m a Celebrity viewers knew the 2016 contestant primarily because of John Terry’s affair with his ex-girlfriend. The former left-back was booted off after just two weeks, but the experience wasn’t a complete waste of time.
"I ain't afraid of spiders now,” the former left-back reflected. “We used to argue over who would get rid of them but now I will."
“Bruce will be compulsive viewing,” boasted the agency that signed Grobbelaar up for the 2009 series of Hell’s Kitchen, with the ex-Liverpool goalkeeper quickly installed as the bookies' favourite after impressing enfant terrible and leading chef Marco Pierre-White.
Grobbelaar's march to glory was ended by his better half, however, with Grobbelaar quitting the show after admitting he was missing her too much. "My wife was sitting outside eating," the Zimbabwean explained shortly after his departure. "That was the defining moment. I knew my prize was outside."
In April 2001, Diego Maradona paid a flying visit to the Big Brotherovi! house in Argentina, which just so happened to contain a woman he'd purportedly had an affair with.
Maradona's son Diego Jr. was also a brief television star in Campioni, a reality show that followed the fortunes of Italian side Cervia. "Maybe now he knows where I am, so close to him, he will come to find me," the youngster said of his dad, who refused to recognise Diego as his son until a DNA test intervened.
Another footballer who entered the jungle on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, Bullard was the early favourite to win the 2014 edition of the show. The ex-midfielder soon went from hero to zero , though, becoming the first participant to be voted off after he was accused of bullying singer Jake Quickenden.
Still, at least Bullard had plans upon his return to the real world. ““The first thing I’ll eat when I get out is a big fry-up with tinned tomatoes,” he revealed. “Then I’ll have a pizza with pepperoni, rocket and chicken on it, and then in the evening I’ll have pie and mash and liquor and salt.”
David James gamely entered into the spirit of things by appearing on the Sports Relief edition of The Great British Bake Off in 2016. Unfortunately for the former shot-stopper, his canapes looked more like sausage rolls from the half-time pie stand.
James's unconventional approach of sticking a fork in his cake in order to "conduct heat and make it cook quicker" didn't go down well with the judges.
Ecuadorian referee Moreno became a hate figure in Italy when the Azzurri were knocked out of the 2002 World Cup after a number of controversial decisions in their round of 16 meeting with co-hosts South Korea.
Moreno clearly had a sense of humour, though: he featured on RAI TV's Stupido Hotel a few weeks later, carrying a briefcase stuffed with bank notes and insisting he was correct to send off Francesco Totti and disallow Damiano Tommasi’s golden goal. How did the Italians respond? By pouring gallons of water over him, of course.
The ex-Colombia custodian participated in La Isla de los Famosos: Una Aventura Pirata ("The Island of the Famous: A Pirate Adventure") in 2005, alongside fellow former footballers Leonel Álvarez and Ricardo Pérez.
After being voted his country's ugliest icon, Higuita then had extensive plastic surgery – including a silicon chin implant, 'aggressive' liposuction and abdominal muscle enhancement – live on ExtremeChange. "Bodily, I'm perfect," he boasted afterwards.
A pantomime villain throughout his playing career, Savage’s flamboyance went down better with the crowd on Strictly Come Dancing than at Villa Park.
The former Birmingham, Leicester and Derby midfielder finished a respectable sixth, despite suffering a broken nose after attempting a dramatic knee-slide towards the camera. That’s how you do it, Dion Dublin.
Carlton Palmer and Frank Worthington
Palmer and Worthington joined John Fashanu and Neil Ruddock, who feature elsewhere on this list, for a footballers-special edition of Come Dine With Me in 2010.
Palmer emerged victorious after enlisting the help of a restaurant-owning friend for some pre-show cooking lessons. In truth he didn’t face much competition: Fashanu served ice-cold red wine and warm white; Ruddock seemed more interested in booze than cooking; and Worthington served up a starter of avocado drowned in malt vinegar. Bon appetite!
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