A goalkeeper from Chester who swapped his gloves and No1 shirt for a pair of polka-dot trunks is forging a successful career as a wrestler in America.

Stuart Tomlinson waved goodbye to England – and his life as a professional footballer – in 2013 to follow his dream of becoming a star in world which is about as far removed from the lower divisions of the Football League as you can get.

The former Upton High School pupil’s work as a part-time model led to his big break in wrestling.

After appearing on the on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, he was spotted by a talent scout from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) – the largest pro wrestling organisation on the planet which has had the the likes of Hulk Hogan and the Rock on its books – and invited to a try-out.

He impressed at a trial held at London’s O2 Arena and ended up signing a three-year deal with the WWE, which saw him move to Orlando and join up with NXT, a development arm of the WWE.

'We used to have a laugh and a joke, then go home'

Chester-born Tomlinson, whose bulky physique would often see him become the target of terrace chants when he was a footballer, is loving his new life.

He quipped: “The sun is shining every day, I’m not on a pitch where it’s raining and you’ve got fans calling me fat.”

Speaking in an interview with the BBC, the former goalkeeper added: “A basic day at football would be train for an hour, maybe play a bit of five-a-side, have a laugh and a joke, then go home.

“In a day, I would probably do two hours’ work – an hour’s training, an hour in the gym, then the rest would be free time.

“Now, a normal day would be wrestling for two or three hours – learning techniques, new moves, getting comfortable with what you’re doing.

“You’d have a break for dinner, then do some weightlifting or power work for an hour or two, then we’d usually have a promo class for an hour.”

From Twitter: Stuart ready to hit the town to celebrate on New Year's Eve

Tomlinson, who performs under the name Hugo Knox, one he chose from a list of five choices given to him, says his background as a footballer stood him in good stead for his wrestling career.

Not only did it ensure he had the athleticism required, it also got him used to playing in front of crowds.

He was an FA Trophy winner at Wembley with Barrow in 2010 and played almost 150 first-team matches.

“I’ve not been fazed, maybe because I’ve played football in front of big crowds,” Tomlinson told the BBC. “I’ve seen people try out in front of just their peers and they would struggle.

“I’ve always been fairly confident in my own ability to do something, ever since I was young. If you walk into something and you’re not confident you will achieve, then you probably won’t.”

'I want the smallest polka dot pants possible!'

As for his alter ego, Tomlinson added: “Hugo Knox is a lively, high-energy and bubbly guy. On my way to the ring I’ll be dancing my socks off, but when the bell goes then it’s time to get down to it.

“Hugo Knox and I are the same person; he is a little bit more amplified. I’m myself, I’m not trying to be anybody else – it’s just a little bit more turned up.

“The gear you wear in the ring is totally up to you. I went with the polka dots. Someone suggested toning it down, but there’s no point training every day if you’re going to cover it up. I want the smallest polka dot pants possible!”

Tomlinson is already performing in front of crowds of thousands in America and dreams of making it to the top of the WWE ladder.

“I watched this year’s Wrestlemania, where the crowd was 80,000, and I want to perform on those big stages,” he said.

“I would like to be remembered as one of the better wrestlers to come out of England. They might also say I was a footballer too.”