Carl Jenkinson will travel with the Arsenal squad to Finland for Saturday's final pre-season friendly against Manchester City in Helsinki. It will be a special trip for the right back, who represented his mother's nation all the way up to under-21 level before switching allegiances to England. In the first part of our Q&A, he explains why...
What was it like representing Finland at youth level...
Fantastic. I've had some really good times playing for them and I've met some amazing friends. I can't speak highly enough of the Finnish Football Federation. I was always made to feel welcome, I was always accommodated by the boys, the players and the coaches. I never felt out of place. I was a boy coming over from England so it would have been easy to treat me as a bit of an outsider because I didn't speak the language. I never had that problem and I always look back on it fondly. They did a lot for my career.
I will always have a strong connection with Finland, but ultimately I had to follow my heartCarl Jenkinson
I grew up playing for them a lot. I was travelling as a young lad to different countries all over the world so I had to grow up as well. I played against a lot of different countries and I've got some great memories so I'll always be very thankful for that. I've played under some great managers as well, notably Mika Laurikainen, who I played for [when I was with] the under-21s. He's a person I respect so highly as a person, as a coach and as a manager. He was fantastic for me. All round, I've not really got a bad word to say.
Obviously you had to recently make a call between Finland and England, how did you go about that?
It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. I've made so many good friends over the years and I had many successful years representing the Finnish youth teams. I grew as a man and a player playing for Finland. I found myself flying on my own to different countries all over the world as a 17-year-old to meet up with the national team, it was an eye-opener. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and have so many great memories.
I will always have a strong connection with Finland, but ultimately I had to follow my heart. I was born and bred in England, its where I grew up and where I call home. I had to look myself in the mirror and ask myself, 'What do you really feel?'. The answer to that was English, and that was the main reason behind my decision. I also had to consider where I thought my football career would have the chance to develop most. I dream of playing at major tournaments, and felt I had a better chance of doing that with England. To this date I only have one cap, and I still have a way to go to break into the squad on a regular basis, but its something I'm working towards.
It was a difficult time for me, and a decision I didn't take lightly. I was 19 and found myself having to choose between England and Finland, a decision that would affect the rest of my career
What was the reaction to your decision in Finland?
I'm not sure. I don't have Twitter or anything like that. I tried to stay away from it, but I remember reading a couple of things online along the lines of 'it was inevitable, he was always going to choose England'. It upset me to read things like that. Everyone close to me knew that wasn't the case. It was a difficult time for me, and a decision I didn't take lightly. I was 19 years of age and found myself having to choose between England and Finland, a decision that would affect the rest of my career.
How did the manager take the news?
I phoned Mixu [Paatelainen] before it was announced in the press. I expressed my thoughts to him and told him the reasons behind my decision. He was understanding, he respected my decision and even had the courtesy to wish me well. I will always respect him for that.