In Young Guns, featured first in the official matchday programme, we find out about the next generation of Arsenal youngsters, in their own words. Next, we speak to forward Folarin Balogun.
I have been at Arsenal since I was 10 years old and they are the team I’ve always supported, but I was very close to signing for Spurs!
Thankfully I was spotted by Arsenal playing for my Sunday League side Aldersbrook. The scout was Alan Knowles, who saw me in the semi-final of a tournament and mentioned Arsenal’s interest to my father. After the final – which we won with me scoring – I was told of their interest and invited to a trial. I was really happy, but I was also trialling with Tottenham, who had expressed an interest earlier.
I had a six-week trial with Arsenal but had to keep a connection with Spurs just in case I didn’t get an offer. I was speaking to Spurs again but thankfully Arsenal signed me and I have been with the club ever since.
That was a special day for me and I’m thankful for all the years of coaching at Hale End and to my parents for driving me there and to matches and the sacrifices they had to make.
Signing as a schoolboy was an exciting time but signing as a scholar last year has been the highlight for me. I suspected that I would get a scholarship because I had quite a good season building up to it, scoring 25 goals and making a lot of assists too, but you never really know until it’s offered.
I’m now in a position where I can do all I can to become a professional footballer with my club.
My strengths are my runs and my finishing but I’m working to improve both, as well as my heading. Edinson Cavani is the player I look up to for his runs in behind. We do a lot of drills in training to develop and enhance our runs. I also look to Robert Lewandowski for his finishing and I go out to training early to work on my own, which will hopefully make everything sharper and more instinctive.
Being full time and training every day took some getting used to. I’ve realised that it’s much harder for a striker at under-18 level compared to schoolboy football. The pace is quicker and the defenders are smarter and stronger, so I have to work harder and keep improving to raise my level.
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