Every matchday programme features an exclusive feature with one of our stars of the future. In a recent edition, young midfielder Bradley Ibrahim told us about getting released at 13, finding out Arsenal were interested and his goals for the future.
Football has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
I’ve still got this amazing memory of my mum taking me down to our local Goals centre when I was only four years old, but I wasn’t wearing any football kit or anything like that… oh no… I was wearing a pair of jeans and Timberlands! My first touch must have been horrible! She asked the coach if I could join in, I did, and it feels like I’ve had a ball at my feet ever since.
Funnily enough, Brentford scouted me that day and the coach who spotted me is now working here at Arsenal – it’s crazy how things can work out.
My family were always really encouraging in terms of getting me involved in football and activities, but to be honest, I’ve always been football mad. Whether it was seeing Premier League games on TV or spotting some kids having a kickabout on the street, it didn’t matter to me, I just wanted to be involved.
Football just seemed to come naturally to me and that’s something my PE teacher spotted very early on. I must have only been five years old at the time, but he thought I had something about me, and it wasn’t long before I had a few clubs inviting me for trials.
It’s around this age that most kids will join a Saturday or Sunday team, but I completely skipped that stage and started floating around at the likes of Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Chelsea, before joining QPR because they were the closest to my house. I was basically at the pre-academy for the pre-academy.
Back then I would honestly play in every and any position, I just loved it. Centre back, centre forward, winger, I would play anywhere I was asked to play! I’ve been everywhere and I think that’s really helped me in terms of my development as a player.
I faced a difficult moment when I was 13 and QPR told me that they were going to release me, but deep down I knew that I would be okay and persevere. I was released at the end of the season and spent all summer working hard to get fitter, faster and stronger. I was briefly playing for a Sunday team at the time and after playing in one of those little six-a-side summer tournaments, that’s when I got the call from Arsenal. You know what, I can still remember how I felt that day!
You’ve got to remember that I grew up supporting Arsenal too, so it meant so much to me. I was shocked more than anything else. The scouts had been watching me for a long while, so to finally find out they wanted me was amazing. I’ve still got the photo of my first day at Hale End. Those memories are hard to forget and it’s obviously a really proud day for the family too.
I always used to tell my family that one day I’m going to play for Arsenal, but to actually get the opportunity and chance to represent this club? It’s an unbelievable feeling and I still have to remind myself just how fortunate I am. I’ve got a long way to get to where I want to be, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far.
When I first joined Arsenal, I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t anywhere near the standard of the other boys. Technically they were so much better than me and looked so much silkier on the ball, but over time I gradually closed that gap, and I must be doing something right because I’m still here now!
Growing up, Arsenal were always the best team at academy level. They were always the team to beat. I remember losing 9-0 against them when I was at QPR, so it was a nice feeling to know that those thrashings were finally over and I could join in on the other side.
I’ve come a long way since then and making my debut for the under-18s last season at just 16 was a big step in my development and progress. I was able to mark it with an assist at a really important moment in the game too, so that was pretty special. It was even better that I set up Amani Richards for his first goal as well.
If I had to describe my style of play, I would say that I’m a dynamic deep midfielder or box-to-box midfielder, I can player either really. I love to win the ball back with little interceptions and timely tackles, and I really enjoy driving up the pitch and progressing play too. I haven’t quite shown it yet at under-18 level, but I think I’m a good goal threat as well.
As for my goals for the rest of the season, I had a brief experience of under-23s football back in July, so I’d love to get some more opportunities there and also make myself a regular starter at under-18 level too. I would love to train with the first-team as well, that would be amazing.
I feel like I’ve got plenty more to give, so I’m looking forward to showing it if I’m trusted in the right moments.
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