This summer, we're featuring some of the players who have appeared in our academy Young Gun section of the match day programme in 2020/21. Next, we have exciting central midfielder, Charlie Patino.
My first-ever football club was St Albans City.
I actually grew up living in London Colney and I was really close to the Arsenal training ground even as a kid, but St Albans City were my first club and I’ve got some great memories of playing there. We used to just turn up on a Saturday and play a game, it was as simple as that. There was no training or anything overly structured, you were basically just free to do whatever you want and play, as you should be as a kid.
I knew that scouts were watching our team at the time, but you often don’t know where, when or who, so you just have to keep performing when you have the chance. Looking back, though, I reckon I was so young that I didn’t even understand what a scout is or what they do. I was just focused on playing football! But I remember my dad explaining all of it to me and telling me that I should take every opportunity I ever get.
Anyway, one day one of the scouts from Luton contacted my dad after watching me play and we thought it was a great opportunity for my development. That’s when things started to become serious because it was no longer solely about the fun of playing, it was about improving and bettering myself on a weekly basis and testing myself against some of the best youth teams in the country.
Five years down the line I had five of the big Premier League clubs wanting to sign me and that was really exciting. Going to Luton from St Albans was a big step for me, but going from Luton to Arsenal was even bigger. I remember my dad explaining to me that not every boy has the opportunity do that and we really took the time out to make sure that we chose the right club.
I’ll never forget my first trip to Colney. As soon as I arrived, I told my dad that this is the place I want to be, not only for the amazing facilities, but for the opportunities this club gives to young players too.
I was 11 when I joined the club and obviously because of that I didn’t have the greatest idea of what’s happening, but you still have a little bit of understanding and that’s when you’ve got your parents and family to help you and guide you with it. I still remember them explaining to me what’s happening, why it’s happening and what could be the best option for me, and I’ll forever be grateful for their guidance.
Five years on and it’s no surprise I have a massive soft spot for Arsenal, but I’ve got to be completely honest and say that my heart is with Luton Town! I spent five years there as well and the development they gave me was massive and I’ll always appreciate that. My dad and I were season-ticket holders too and we’d literally watch every home game after I’d been playing in the morning, so they’ve played a massive part in my life. My dad also supports another team called Deportivo La Coruna because he grew up Spain. Maybe one day I could play for them too!
I’ve always had an appreciation for that Spanish style of play. Growing up I adored Santi Cazorla as a player, and Cesc Fabregas and Mikel Arteta were some of my favourites too. But there’s something about Santi for me and the qualities that he had – he was something else.
As a midfield player there’s so much I can learn from him, but from an attitude and professionalism perspective, and something a little closer to home, another player I really look up to is Bukayo Saka. He’s two years older than me and I’m working my hardest to try and follow in his footsteps. That’s the pathway I want to take at Arsenal.
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