Every matchday programme features an exclusive feature with one of our stars of the future. In a recent edition, young forward Amani Rochards told us about swapping west London for north, how he likes to be challenged and what he hopes to achieve next.
I’ve got to be honest… even when I was at Chelsea, I still dreamed of playing for The Arsenal. I was left with no other choice really, it’s in my blood, all of my family are Gooners!
It’s always been Arsenal for me. I know it’s the classic thing that everyone says, but Thierry Henry really was my idol growing up. I remember training with my dad as a kid and he always used to tell me to study his trademark finish closely. You know the one I mean get down the line, cut inside, open up your body and pass it into the corner. That was my signature finish at Sunday league and it’s something that I still look to do in games today.
After playing Sunday league football until I was 12, I was scouted by a number of Premier League clubs, before I eventually joined Chelsea and spent the next four years of my life there. I’ve got so much to thank them for in terms of my development as a player and as a person too, but during my final season there, I felt like it got to the point where I wasn’t being pushed and challenged in the way that I wanted to be.
I’m the kind of person who likes to be tested all the time and I think that brings the best out of me both on and off the pitch, so I came to the decision that I needed to move on and make a fresh start elsewhere – and what better place to do that than here in north London?
I was open to all kinds of challenges, but the reality is that Arsenal was always the place that I wanted to be. This is exactly what I wanted, a new environment with new expectations and a new way of looking at football. I wanted to join the club from the moment I heard Arsenal were in for me, but to then hear them lay out their plans for my development and how they can challenge me was amazing. They told me that they wanted to turn me into a true goalscorer and that was something that really appealed to me. I want to add that clinical edge to my game.
Turning up at London Colney for my first day was genuinely a dream come true. Growing up I always used to watch the videos on Arsenal’s YouTube channel, so I always knew exactly what it looked like! It was a crazy feeling. Receiving my first batch of Arsenal kits and training gear was amazing too. Obviously I’ve had Arsenal shirts before, but to have one that’s genuinely mine is something really special. Just the thought of maybe one day wearing that shirt for the first team is something that keeps me motivated in every training session and game.
I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my life here at Arsenal really. I scored on my full debut for the under-18s last season and then I was handed my debut for the under-23s at just 16 years of age. That gave me so much confidence in terms of the belief and trust that the club have put in me. I remember we played Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup the day before and then I got a text saying I was in the squad for the under-23s. I was like… wow, already?! I really wasn’t expecting it at all.
Whenever you join a new club, there’s always that pressure to perform and show everyone what you’re about, so to be able to make an impact in the way that I did was a great feeling.
Now I just need to keep believing in myself and keep it going. I love this club and like any kid who grew up supporting Arsenal, my dream is still the same… to go all the way to the first team!
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