"I have five older brothers, two of whom signed as professionals," he says. "My oldest brother Darren was with Wimbledon and another of my brothers, Gavin was with Millwall. Unfortunately their careers in football didn't continue for very long, but they are both now doing well as leisure centre managers. The fact that they can look back and see where they could have done things differently is a help to me because they are there to talk to and offer me guidance when I need it," he explains. "The main thing they try to instil in me is to keep focused. I have to block out any distractions to try and give my best."

The youngster also draws inspiration from a female member of his family, his mum Amanda: "My mum has been everywhere with me since I started playing club football when I was eight. I was with Millwall first, which was closer to our home in Battersea," he recalls. "But I then joined Arsenal when I was eleven. She would make the journey on the train with me three nights a week to Hale End in Chingford and then wait for me and bring me home on the train again. A big part of me feels that I have to give myself every chance of becoming a professional because of what she did and still does for me."

Coming from a big family was crucial in Craig's formative football years: "I was the youngest boy, but I used to play football with all my brothers and their friends and I think that helped me a lot and it toughened me up mentally and physically. My brothers also used to coach me from a very young age too which I believe gave me a head start."

Craig's learning curve has been steady, but feels it has been even steeper since joining the Academy: "I can honestly look back and say that I am improving every week. I am a much better player now than I was when we joined in the summer. The facilities and coaching are the best and I am noticing the benefits of the technical work we do."

Craig is not alone, he is part of an Under-18s side that remains unbeaten, having won seven of eight games played: "We are at the best club there is and we have been together for so many years that we know how we all play and have a great spirit and togetherness. "I have to admit that I was surprised by some of the results," he reveals. "Leicester beat the Under-18s at the end of last season and they won the Academy trophy. We were all up for a tough game, but we won 5-0. I think we were so focused and determined that we started so quickly and got into our passing game from the opening whistle that blew Leicester away. I think that our attitude was key in that game. I think we have the potential to win everything this year, but we are not getting carried away. We are not taking any game for granted and that's the way we have to be to succeed now and in the future."

Craig played for the Reserves when he was a schoolboy and has featured already this year, surprisingly in midfield: "I play rightback for the Under-18s and have played in the centre of midfield for the Reserves. I used to play in the centre all the time, but I was switched to right-back last season. I have got used to the role but am developing my understanding all the time. I think that although there is a lot of running up and down the flanks, in the centre you have to be physically stronger with higher stamina levels because you have to keep moving and concentrating all the time. To be honest," says the 16 year-old, "they are very different, but I enjoy both roles. The main thing is that I am playing."."

By Lambros Lambrou

From the Arsenal Matchday Programme

Copyright 2017 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
24 Oct 2007