Feature

'This season has been an up and down one for me'

This season has been an up and down one for me.

I didn’t begin the season in the way that I would have wanted. I went out with the squad to South Africa on the pre-season tour but didn’t get many games. I think that was because my fitness levels were not at the level they should have been. It was quite strange because I was doing everything I needed to do to get fit in pre-season but wasn’t able to give everything for 90 minutes.

I was going through a growth spurt at the time and was having knee pains, and that’s what has been suggested as the reason it took me longer to get to full fitness. Within a couple of months, I was able to complete a full 90 minutes and have an effect on matches. Now I feel so much stronger. Now that I’ve come through the growth spurt, it has also had an effect on my energy levels and I have a more positive attitude this season.

I have to admit that last term I wasn’t on the front foot as much. If things didn’t go my way, I used to get upset more easily. My change of approach is now paying dividends in that I feel I’m playing the best football I’ve ever played and making a real difference in every game I play. More importantly, if something doesn’t go my way, I don’t let it affect me as much as it used to.

A big influence was when I joined the first team for training for the first time. I’d been doing quite well in training and games and the first team were short of players. Neil Banfield came over and told me that after training with the academy, I would join the first team to train with them.

I’m not the sort of person that gets nervous so I took it in my stride, however, I was impressed by how precise, quick and physical training was.

Every player demonstrated why they were at that level, and it showed me what I need to do. It was hard to pick anyone who stood out massively, however Alex Iwobi and Alexis Sanchez caught my eye. I tended to focus on what they were doing a little more than the others. I have trained five or six times now with the first team and I feel that I learn more and more every time, and bring that in to training sessions with the academy and playing for the under-18s.

I’m working on all aspects of my game, even dribbling which I consider to be the strongest part of my game. It’s encouraging every time I go back and train with the first team to see and feel if I have made an improvement.

With the under-18s we have a good set of players and finished second in our league, meaning we are in the play-offs, which we are hopeful of winning. We are aware that it will be tough because there are a lot of good teams in the last eight. We have good coaches and even though Andries Jonker has moved on to manage Wolfsburg in Germany, we have continued as normal. When Andries left, he explained everything to us, and how it was an opportunity to progress his career that he couldn’t pass up.

He said we were a good group of players and that he was sure that we would all make good careers in professional football, which was quite encouraging for us. He received a standing ovation from the players and our best wishes before he left. 

THE LOWDOWN

Biggest influence on your career?
Thierry Henry.

What's the best aspect of your game?
Creating chances.

What do you still need to work on?
Everything.

Which team did you support as a boy?
Arsenal.

Who did you pretend to be in the playground?
Lionel Messi.

Which current player would you most like to play against?
Paul Pogba.

If you score any goal from history, which would it be?
Messi's goal against Arsenal.

What's been the greatest moment in your career?
Signing my scholarship.

You have to sing one song to save your life...
Tunnel Vision by Black Kodak.
 

TEAM-MATES 

Who has the best sense of humour?
Reiss Nelson.

Who is the best at FIFA?
Me.

Who is the best with the ladies?
Reiss Nelson.

Who is the worst at FIFA?
Jordi Osei-Tutu.

Who has the worst ball skills?
Tolaji Bola. 

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