By Lambros Lambrou
It's a new season, a new beginning and Anthony Jeffrey could not wait for the campaign to start.
“We have done a lot of work in pre-season. A lot of running and double sessions at first and that took a bit of getting used to," he said. "My brother Marcus, who was once with Luton, warned me that the double sessions were tough. I kept saying to him that they can’t be that hard - he was right!
“At the beginning I would get home after a double session and want to go straight to sleep. Because we did not train every day before, it took some getting used to, but after a couple of weeks it was OK.”
Pre-season was not all about running. Anthony believes that he has already improved and that is coming from a high level start point too - the youngster secured 20 goals from midfield last season in the Under-16s:
“Steve Bould is a very, very good coach," said Jeffrey. "We have all learned a lot already. It has not all been about fitness, we have done a lot of work on technique and I feel that my ability levels have risen in just a few weeks.
"I am really enjoying training and I just could wait for the season to begin. I think we have a special group this season. I believe that we were too inconsistent last year. As an Under-18s side last season we were a touch complacent at times but this year I can feel that there is a real focus and steel to this team in addition to the quality players in the squad.”
Anthony was among the lads who impressed last season when playing for the Under-18s while still a schoolboy. It was not just his goals, but his overall play was so mature and inventive. There was hardly a post-match interview when he didn’t get praised by Bould, but the level-headed youngster knows the hard work begins now.
“Playing for the Under-18s last season was really good for me," he said. "I started playing quite early on in the season which was a bit of a surprise. Once I played and got selected week after week, I realised I was considered good enough and that gave me a big confidence boost because I felt I was there on merit and not just trying out.”
Right-footed Anthony played mainly on the left flank, but his quick brain and lightning-fast feet got him into some great positions to score goals and help the team: “Playing on the left as a right footer meant that I tended to cut inside a lot," he said. "I am working a lot more on my left foot and crossing to improve other aspects of my responsibilities in that position. I have always understood the defensive role too but even that has improved this season because of the work we do in training.”
The youngster is also composed in front of goal and uses his obvious intelligence well on and off the pitch. “I know what I put in on the training pitch will improve my game and help me get to my target of playing for the first team. I have belief in my ability, but I know it will not just come to me.
“I come from Mill Hill and have always been an Arsenal fan, even before I joined the Club when I was nine. I played for the Under-16s at the Emirates at the end of last season when I scored in a 3-3 draw with Aston Villa. It was like a dream. There were 3,000 or so people watching and although that is way short of capacity, there was a good atmosphere and it gave me a taste of the dream that I want to make happen.”
Anthony is very aware of how dreams can be shattered though: “My brother Marcus was a promising youngster at Luton, but he had to give up the game after he broke his leg as a 17 year-old. He was so unlucky but while I am aware of the dangers, you have to take risks in life to achieve your goals, especially in sport.
"I am so looking forward to this season. My targets are to keep improving and if I do well I hope to cement my place in the Under-18s and earn a spot in the FA Youth Cup team."
THEN AND NOW...
Teams played for before Arsenal?
Mill Hill Rangers, Belmont
Best advice ever?
There’s only one type of discipline, self-discipline
Best football moment before joining Arsenal?
Winning the Harrow League
Supported growing up?
Pretended to be on the playground?
Fave kids’ TV show growing up?
Dragon Ball Z
Other sports good at?
Athletics – was third fastest schoolboy sprinter in the country
Most influential on football career so far?
My brother Marcus
Other clubs interested before signing for Arsenal?
Chelsea, Fulham, Aston Villa and Liverpool
Fave item of clothing?
Role model from current team?
Best thing about being part of the Academy?
We’re all a family
Three words to describe you as a player?
Fast, strong, brave
Three words to describe you as a person?
Loving, funny, trustworthy
Follow on Twitter?
Kim Kardashian, Ryan Giggs
Most talented team-mate?
Something we don’t know about you?
I’m a very good actor