By Chris Harris
When Mark Randall woke up on Tuesday morning he was hoping to play some part in Arsenal's Carling Cup tie at Blackburn. He certainly wasn't expecting to make his first senior start.
That all changed when Theo Walcott woke up feeling under the weather. One England teenager's pain became another England teenager's gain as Randall was drafted into the line-up for the dramatic win at Ewood Park.
"I knew when we got to the training ground in the morning that Theo wasn't travelling with us but I still didn't know if I was starting or not," Randall told Arsenal.com. "I found out I was playing about three hours before the game and I was just happy to get the chance.
"I felt nervous but I just tried to relax and think of what I had to do during the game. I tried to keep a cool head. The more experienced players like Philippe Senderos gave me a lot of advice and encouragement and they kept me working hard. The boss told me to stay relaxed and play my game."
That's exactly what Randall did. The 18-year-old looked completely at ease in the first half as Arsenal stroked the ball around in style. He even played a vital role in the opening goal, picking out Nicklas Bendtner with a measured pass before the Dane's cross was converted by Abou Diaby.
Randall tired after the break and was replaced by another teenager, Nacer Barazite, with 10 minutes of normal time remaining. But the midfielder from Milton Keynes had done enough to prove that Arsenal do have talented English youngsters emerging from their academy.
Kieran Gibbs and Henri Lansbury have also featured in this season's Carling Cup run while Rhys Murphy and Gavin Hoyte are making steady progress. Randall believes they will all get their chance to impress - provided they put the work in.
"It's hard work to get into the first team but if you are good enough you will get a chance," said Randall.
"There are plenty of young English players coming through like Henri Lansbury, Gavin Hoyte and Rhys Murphy - we just have to keep working hard to get into the first team."Copyright 2015 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 19 Dec 2007