By Declan Taylor
Luke Ayling admits he feared the worst when he was shown a red card in the final fixture before Arsenal’s two-legged FA Youth Cup Final. But after getting a “second chance” the young defender is determined to make it count.
Only five days before the Final’s first leg the Gunners faced Spurs in the Premier Academy League Final at White Hart Lane. Rhys Murphy swooped in the second half to secure the trophy but it would prove a bittersweet afternoon for Ayling who was dismissed for two bookable offences shortly after the goal.
Initially the defender thought he would miss one, if not both, legs of the Final and his distress was clear when he stomped down the tunnel. But according to the rules of that competition, the one-match suspension only kicks in 14 days after the offence, much to the delight of Ayling.
“When it first happened straight away I thought I would miss one or two legs so I was devastated,” the centre-back told Arsenal.com after Friday’s first leg.
“But when I got in the dressing room afterwards [Academy Director] Liam Brady told me I should be fine. That calmed me down a lot and it was great to play at the Emirates in front of over 33,000.
“I was definitely more determined and it was great in front of that kind of crowd to get a second chance.
“Having played in every FA Youth Cup game so far this season, I would have been heartbroken to miss the Final. But I have been lucky enough to make it and it paid off in the first leg.”
Arsenal will take a solid 4-1 aggregate advantage to Anfield for tonight’s second leg. And, although the young Gunners’ attacking flair has caught the eye this season, a settled defence has provided a firm platform for the more forward-thinking starlets.
As one of the same back five to have turned out in all six Youth Cup fixtures this season, Ayling explained how their friendship has helped them grow as a unit.
“The back four and James Shea too are all best friends off the pitch so that helps when we’re on the pitch,” he said. “We try to help each other out all the time – it’s great to be so settled at the back.
“There is work to do [in the second leg]. This is half time – we need to go to Anfield and play the same as we did at Emirates Stadium to get a good result.
“I can’t wait for it. It’s great that it’s only four days after winning 4-1. We can’t wait to get out there and hopefully win it. The momentum should help us.”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 26 May 2009