By Matt Fortune
Gilly Flaherty insists Arsenal is the best club for an aspiring women footballer to be at. And she is ready for a more involved role next season.
Having broken into the first-team squad last season, the hugely talented defender spent the majority of this campaign on the cusp of the side. Injury and understandable youthful inconsistency meant that she didn't perhaps make the strides she might have done.
With that now hopefully behind her, Flaherty has the courage to push on. Her talents, too, are patently obvious; the 16-year-old already plays for England Under-17s and Under-19s.
But at such a young age, Flaherty's experience is dwarfed by the senior figures at the Club. Nevertheless, the gap is shortening all the time.
"There are players here in front of me that have 50 and 60 caps for their country at senior level," Flaherty told Arsenal.com. "But obviously being in this set-up at my age and being around these players is definitely going to bring my game on.
"If I can keep working, get my head down, it won't matter at the moment [if I am not getting the game time]. I have had a few starts with the first-team this season. I have been looking to the cups because the more minutes I can get the easier I will find it when I am playing more regularly.
"Of course it is all experience, good experience, at my age and as I go on it will help me. It is about building to next year too.
"I never expected to play as much as I have this year. I expected myself to, not make up the numbers, but be a bit-part player. But definitely I feel involved with it this season.
"At the end of the day Arsenal is the best women's club to be at. To be 16 and even sitting on the bench, learning off the players we have here is a chance you can't walk away from. You can't leave because you are not starting, you have to fight and not give up until you're a starter."
Her level-headedness suggests that the role she desperately craves can't be far away.
"I am looking forward to pre-season, getting my fitness up, getting match-ready, working on my left-foot and most importantly believing that I can go out there and play.
"A lot people could think I wasn't good enough or old enough so it would be great to go out there and prove them wrong."Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 11 Jun 2008