In Young Guns, featured first in the official matchday programme, we find out about the next generation of Arsenal youngsters, in their own words. Next, we speak to full-back Vontae Daley-Campbell.
I have been at Arsenal since 2009 and I was spotted by an Arsenal scout playing in a primary school match. He gave my mum a card and invited me for a six-week trial at Hale End. That went quite well and I was signed at the end of it.
I was a winger up until I played for the under-13s, when one of the coaches suggested that they try me at right back because I was always quite strong defensively. I had fun and really enjoyed it – as a full back you’re constantly involved both in attack and defence. I had the natural stamina and ability to sustain bursts of running but what I had to adapt to was to know when to dribble and when not to.
At first I used to dribble a lot, even close to our goal, which I was told off for by the coaches. But I learnt that dribbling was okay in the attacking third, where I could possibly make an opening and would have time to recover if I lost the ball. I’ve got the balance right now having had four years practice.
The first team played with wing backs last year but I’ve only played as part of a five once, in pre-season against Luton. I enjoyed it and found it had an emphasis on attack. I played further up the pitch and because I’m naturally aware defensively, I was able to protect well at the back too. What I found is that it gives the opportunity to win the ball back early and start attacks further up the pitch.
The main thing that I’ve noticed in my game since becoming a scholar is that my fitness levels have risen.I do extra box to box running to improve further too, as that’s vital for a right back. I also feel that I’ve improved technically – my first pass, passing to forwards and my crosses have got better as I practice them a lot after training. Quality is everything.
The other thing I’ve learnt is how to have a professional manner on and off the pitch. Having progressed from Hale End we are expected to conduct ourselves as professionals. It’s our job and being generally respectful, thoughtful and considerate is very much the emphasis as a scholar.
I’ve played as a schoolboy for England already. We lost against Romania but it was an interesting experience. I was surprised by how much quicker it was. I really enjoyed the fact that the games were quick, with a lot of fast movement and passing and I’m looking forward to representing my country again.
I enjoy watching Carabao Cup games. It’s a chance for young players to have an active part, and I’m looking forward to seeing former academy players play. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to make my first-team debut in the competition one day.
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