By Lloyd Webb
Role models are key for Ryan Huddart.
The 18-year-old has recently been training with the first team and working with fellow shotstoppers Petr Cech and David Ospina means he has been receiving quite the goalkeeping education.
Their feedback has clearly had an effect on Huddart, as the teenager has earned himself a place in Steve Gatting’s under-21 squad and started two of their last five games.
"The older ones that have been there before and played in Uefa Youth League games. You try to take every game the same but this is one of those you circle in the calendar with a gold mark next to it"
Huddart, speaking ahead of Arsenal Under-19s’ Uefa Youth League play-off against Anderlecht, says learning from experienced internationals has had a profound effect.
“I’m lucky enough to train with the first team and working with people like David Ospina and Petr Cech has helped me massively,” he told Arsenal.com. “Me and Cech are a similar size and have similar movements on and off the ball so he has helped me so much.
“I idolised Cech before he came here. I can only improve with their help, and then with the shooting practice with the first-team players I can improve quicker and quicker every day. The work I do with the goalkeeping coaches helps massively as well - they believe in me and that helps.
"Alexis stands out for me. His shots have no backlift - so it is very difficult sometimes to anticipate him. It has been good, I've slowly been getting games in the under-21s and it has been difficult season but I have been working hard all season so I think it is deserved.”
Anderlecht are a familiar foe for Huddart, having been included in Arsene Wenger’s Champions League squad for their game against the Belgian side last season, and he is confident the under-19s can progress.
“We have got so much depth, we have an unbelievable chance of winning this competition,” he said. "We have got two good players in each position. The only thing that will let us down is lack of concentration at times.
"If we can get rid of that and keep our concentration, I’m sure we can win this competition - 100 per cent. We are stronger than last year and have so much more depth.
“I have already played Andelecht last year in the group stage. They were the best team in the group and the best team we came across last season in the Uefa Youth League. Luckily I got to go with the first team in the Champions League too, so I have been to their stadium before.
“I sort of know what we are going to go through. The fans were quite loud and in your face. We want to win every game so there isn’t much pressure. I think the younger lads will feel it a bit more because they probably haven’t had a game as big as this yet in their careers.
“The older ones that have been there before and played in Uefa Youth League games. You try to take every game the same but this is one of those you circle in the calendar with a gold mark next to it.”
You can follow live updates of the game against Anderlecht on Twitter via @Arsenal from 4.55pm (UK time) on Tuesday.
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