In Young Guns, featured first in the official matchday programme, we find out about the next generation of Arsenal youngsters, in their own words. This week we spoke to midfielder Joe Willock.
I joined Arsenal when I was four and a half years old. At that age, the rules state that you can only be affiliated to a football club, but when I was nine I signed properly.
In the early years I was learning the game from various Arsenal coaches at the academy – I have not played for any other team. I was first spotted by an Arsenal scout when watching my older brother, Chris, play for Arsenal when he was six.
"I hope to become a regular in the under-18s this season and perhaps get involved with the under-19s"
I would take a ball with me to his games and play with it at the side of the pitch and one day one of the Arsenal people asked me to start training with them. I started with the under-6s and often trained with my brother.
I was the youngest in the group and I loved it. I’ve loved every second of the 11 and a half years or so that I’ve been with Arsenal, the club I have always supported. My parents used to take us to Hale End and when I signed as a nine year old, our eldest brother Matthew, who is now with Manchester United, also signed for the Arsenal under-12s.
We used to live near Hale End and so we didn’t have a long way to travel. We have now moved to Hemel Hempstead which is only 15 minutes away from the Arsenal training centre in Shenley and so travelling has never been a major problem for us when we were younger or now.
It was really good that we were all at Arsenal together. We developed our technique tremendously because the coaches put a lot of work into developing that. Also, we used to eat, sleep and dream football. We did not have any other hobbies.
Just football. If we had any spare time we would be straight down to the park with our dad and play or practice skills and technique. There was nothing else we wanted to do. When I was 13 I left Highams Park School and joined the school at the Arsenal Training Centre where we study full time, but three times a week we have training sessions.
That helped my development immensely and all the lads on that programme were able to get used tothesetupsothatnowweareall scholars, things are less strange and more familiar. Being a full-time scholar was quite tough at first, training every day.
The pre-season work got some getting used to but I absolutely loved it and I feel that I’m a lot fitter and stronger now. I’m spending a lot of time on the training ground trying to improve my goalscoring.
I’m comfortable playing as a number 10, either wing or in central midfield, but I want to score more goals. It’s about technique and composure and the only way to develop those is to keep practising.
I hope to become a regular in the under-18s this season and perhaps get involved with the under-19s Champions League side, that would be good.
I also enjoy playing for England who I have represented at under-15s, 16s and am looking to play for the 17s. I enjoyed the Victory Shield and scoring for England against Scotland was a special moment for me.
A few faves...
...positions I can play in
Attacking midfield, left wing, right wing, centre mid and striker
...best aspects of my game
Dribbling and creating
...things I can improve on
Heading and work rate
... player I’m similar to
...best friend in football
...most used app
...favourite TV series
The Only Way is Essex
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