By Declan Taylor

Luke Ayling has paid tribute to Under-18s manager Steve Bould for his hand in the first-class development of all Arsenal’s young defenders.

Ayling, who has been training full-time under Bould at Arsenal’s training ground for the last 18 months, made his third Reserve team start in Monday’s narrow defeat to West Ham at Underhill.

In addition to his second-string outings, the 17-year-old has caught the eye at the centre of Arsenal’s FA Youth Cup defence alongside Kyle Bartley, establishing himself as a genuine ball-playing centre half.

The London-born stopper attributes much of his marked improvement to his inspirational boss.

“Steve’s a great coach and he has helped me a lot,” Luke told Arsenal.com. “I have come on so much in the year a bit I have been with him. It’s great to be with him.

“I saw him as a player alongside people like Lee Dixon and the famous back four of course. When I came up full-time and found out Steve Bould was my coach it was great to know I would be training with him everyday. It’s good for me, Kyle, Havard [Nordtveit] and the other centre backs.

“Because I’m not the quickest player, Steve has taught me how to keep my space from the striker. It means if the ball goes in behind I can get there but if it goes to feet I can get there too.

“I have been up at Shenley with Steve full time for 18 months now and I think I have improved a lot since then.”

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 10 Mar 2009