‘We’ve improved in almost every game!'

Arsenal U-18s

Ken Gillard was a proud man on Saturday after seeing his side win the U-18 Premier League South title for the first time since 2010.

Our youngsters have enjoyed an incredible season, winning 20 of their 22 league outings, scoring 86 goals and conceding just 23. No other side has scored more or conceded fewer in the division.

We spoke to Gillard after the final whistle - and this is what he said:

on how it feels to be crowned champions…

It feels fantastic. It’s been a long season and the boys have worked very, very hard, so I’m delighted thy finished it off, especially with the way we’ve been playing this season. We’ve had to be patient, but it’s very, very pleasing.

on scoring late on…

We kept going and kept to the plan. We’ve done it all season, so whether we scored in the first minute or 78th minute, we just try to do things the right way and keep trying to play our football. We knew we’d get chances but to be fair, Fulham gave us a really tough game and we knew that would be the case. Thankfully we got the goal in the end and once that happened the second and third were the icing on the cake.

on Fulham’s indirect free-kick in their area…

You could see the aggression on all of the lads faces as they were lining up in the wall. You could hear them vocally saying that they need to attack the ball and once that happened, they thought let’s go on and win this game. I think the team spirit they’ve shown all season is incredible - and that’s just another part of it.

on the season overall…

I think it’s been fantastic. I know it’s not all about winning games, but the boys have improved in their performances in almost every game they’ve played in. They’ve kept going and going so all in all it’s been really pleasing. To win every game at home is fantastic and only losing two games all season is brilliant, especially with the amount of goals we’ve scored and the football we’ve played. We’ve also got a decent defensive record as well, so it’s really pleasing for the boys.

on what’s pleased him most about the season…

I just think the day in, day out attitude of the boys who want to improve, and the way that they play with a smile on their face the majority of the time. The staff have played a massive part in this too. Kwame left early in the season, but Greg’s come in and I’ve gone up to head coach. There’s been a lot of change and the sport science guys have been brilliant on a day-to-day basis. The psychologists too. These boys have a lot of staff here to help them and it’s insane the amount of work that gets carried out here. Ultimately it’s the boys though, because they’ve got to go out there and perform when there’s pressure - and there was a bit of pressure today. I’m really pleased for that.

on what’s next…

We’ve still got another game to play and it will be against Liverpool or Derby. We’ve just come back from Dallas and Liverpool were out there as well after winning the FA Youth Cup. Congratulations to them! The date is yet to be confirmed but it looks like it could be between May 6 and 9, so between now and then we will regroup and look after a few little bumps and bruises that we’ve picked up today. The fitness is there so we just need to maintain them and wrap them up in cotton wool. Once that’s done we’ve got some boys going away on International duty. Sam Greenwood, Yunus Musah and Miguel Azeez are all going away for the European Championship and we’ve got other boys going away for international games as well. Then we’ll have a bit of a rest, enjoy our holiday and make sure we’re ready to go again next season!

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