When Eddie Nketiah came on in our Carabao Cup tie against Norwich City, he only had one thing on his mind: to make an impact.
Fifteen seconds later and he had equalised. Not long after he would score the winner. Mission accomplished.
But Nketiah’s journey towards his ultimate goal – becoming a first-team regular – still has some way to go, although he has come a long way already.
in joining us, wasn’t your typical one. He honed his craft on the streets of Lewisham, before joining his local club, where he was then picked up by Chelsea, only to be let go at the age of 14.
“In the early days I played football in the streets - in the park there was a little cage in my area,” he told Arsenal Player. “It was really hard playing in a football cage, there’s a lot of pride there and everyone wants to show how good they are and what they can do and there’s no security around, so you’ve got to fend for yourself.
“If you get tackled you’ve just got to get back up, there’s no fouling. There’s a lot of trash talk going on in the cage and you’ve just got to have a thick skin and get through it, and just show how good you are.
“I started off at Hilliford, it was a local club at under-9s and then I joined Chelsea at the end of that season and I was there until under-14s. I got released at under-14s and was told I wasn’t going to get another contract. A week later I got spotted, by Ian Gilmour, Charlie’s dad - at the time he was a scout for Arsenal - and he brought me down, and a week after that I got signed.
“My first year was really strong, I tried to build a name for myself. I think in my first year I got 24 goals in 20 starts, I think 26 in total, so it was a really prolific year for me. The next year I got 24 goals as well. It was really good for my confidence for this season and now that I’ve already scored goals at that level, I've shown I’m capable of doing so.”
After impressing for our under-23s, Nketiah made his first-team debut at BATE Borisov, before THAT performance off the bench against Norwich.
“I was so happy and delighted when the boss called me over and let me know that I would be coming on, even though it was only for four or five minutes,” he said. “Just to feel that all that hard work you have put in over the years has come true and that you’re able to step up with some of the best players in the world - it was a great feeling for me.
“I was so happy, the adrenaline was pumping through me and I was just eager to get a touch on the ball and show what I could do, so that was a really great moment.
“Against Norwich I was itching to go on and all that was running through my mind was I was thinking, ‘Get one chance to try and get the team back in it and show I am in the right position to take it’, and I was eager to make an impact. To come on and do so in such quick time, 15 seconds, was amazing.
“It’s what you dream about every night when you go to sleep as a kid and to turn it into reality was a great feeling. I was so overwhelmed and so excited I even lost my head a bit with the celebration, usually I’m cool and calm with the celebrations.
“To be fair, the celebration came out nice on the camera so I wouldn’t change a thing from that night, maybe to get a hat-trick, but there’s plenty of time for that.”
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