Throughout the season, we'll be catching up with our young Gunners to find out more about their route to our academy. This week, Cam'ron Ismail shares how persistence and versatility on the pitch have helped him on the way to achieving his dream.
I'm a local boy, born and raised in Islington. I have Arsenal in my blood, having grown up just ten minutes from Emirates Stadium. Some of my fondest memories involve attending matches at the stadium, and I really enjoy the atmosphere there.
My background is quite diverse – my mother is Egyptian, and my father is Nigerian. I started my football journey with Camden Elite, where I played for a few years and had the chance to attend several trials.
After that, I played for various grassroots clubs until I reached the age of 13. Then, as fate would have it, lockdown struck. It was a tough time for me because football is my passion, and having it suddenly taken away was challenging.
I began as a striker, relishing the thrill of scoring goals, and I admired players like Theo Walcott. His movement and finishing skills left a lasting impression on me. He's one of the few players to have scored more than 100 goals for Arsenal, which is an incredible achievement.
However, one day, my coach suggested I try playing as a left-back. I embraced the change, and it turns out I really enjoy the position. In today's game, fullbacks play a crucial role, requiring us to contribute both defensively and offensively.
Just recently I've even been experimenting with an inverted role, which adds another layer to my tactical understanding and spatial awareness. I find it fulfilling and beneficial for the team.
My journey to Arsenal was quite a rollercoaster. They turned me down twice before finally signing me in September 2021. The rejection wasn't easy, especially because I'm a die-hard fan. However, I never lost faith that I'd get another opportunity.
"If you persist, even through difficult times, you can accomplish anything."
When lockdown ended I got a third trial and after six weeks they offered me a contract. You could call it third time lucky but it only goes to show that if you persist, even through difficult times, you can accomplish anything. That experience made me stronger as a player.
My time at Hale End was memorable. My favourite moment was scoring in my very first game. It was surreal, especially because we practised corners in training, and our routine paid off. It was the perfect start to my Arsenal journey.
Heading into the scholarship decision I was nervous, considering I hadn't been at the club for long. But I was determined to prove myself. When I received the good news in December 2022 I felt relieved and immensely proud. However, I know this is just the beginning, and I'll work even harder to earn a professional contract. Football
is my life, and I'm dedicated to making a career out of it.
Arriving at London Colney was a significant step closer to my dreams. The top-tier facilities and the opportunity to see Arsenal's first-team players every day are inspiring. Just going into the building every day fuels my hunger and desire to one day get a professional contract and be the next Bukayo, Emile, Reiss and Eddie. They’re guys who’ve made it through Hale End and are now playing at the first-team level, which is where I want to be.
Making my debut for the Under-18s was an eye-opener. The tempo and intensity are much higher, and it requires quick thinking. You don’t have much time on the ball and the higher level you play up, the margin for error gets even smaller.
But having someone like Jack Wilshere as a coach is fantastic. His experience of playing for Arsenal and England at the highest level is invaluable and it’s an insight not many players will get to have so I’m fully grateful to have him as a coach.
Before a game, my music choices vary. Sometimes I prefer upbeat tunes to get me pumped up, while other times, I opt for a more relaxed vibe. There's no set routine; it depends on how I'm feeling.
This season, my goal is simple: make as many appearances as possible, whether it's with the Under-18s or the 21s. I simply love playing football.