Every matchday programme features an exclusive feature with one of our stars of the future. In the Crystal Palace issue, young defender Josh Robinson told us about his journey so far, working on his technical qualities and goals for the future.
One of my earliest memories of football growing up is playing Sunday league football as a midfielder. I’m a defender now, but back then I used to be scoring goals for fun!
That’s where it all started really. I used to do a lot of swimming as a kid and I remember one day seeing these group of lads just having a kickabout. I was jealous of them and told my dad that I wanted to join in. He took me down to our local football club not longer after and that was that… I was hooked from there on!
The club was called Romford Colts. I’ve got a lot of good memories there. I used to play Sunday league and then throughout the week I’d go to my mate's house and we’d play behind the block of flats or in a cage in Walthamstow. We loved it.
I guess when you compare me to other players in academies, I started quite late. I didn’t join my Sunday team until I was nine and then I didn’t start taking it seriously for at least another year or two. It was just a bit of fun for me at the start, but then I decided that this was something I wanted to take further. I wanted to see how far I could go.
Back then, I used to love playing as a midfielder and they used to stick me out on the wing too. I was regularly scoring hat-tricks! Anyway, I eventually joined a development centre and from there I felt like I really started to improve as a footballer and find my real position. I was training with some brilliant coaches who used to play football and that really helped my development.
I was there for about six months and that’s when I was asked if I wanted to trial for Arsenal. Of course my answer was yes! But it didn’t go to plan at first. They rejected me, so I went back to the development centre and carried on playing and working hard until Crystal Palace asked me to go on trial. I played with them for a little while and teams like QPR and Everton were interested, but when Arsenal invited me for another trial, I had to take it. They liked me, signed me up and I’ve been here ever since!
That feeling of knowing Arsenal wanted me was amazing. I had my first full season at under-12s and I remember being so excited because I had this incredible opportunity right in front of me. Going to Hale End for the first time was so cool. I was really nervous because Arsenal is obviously such a big place with so many big names who have represented the club, but I just had to tell myself to relax, take on the pressure and enjoy it.
My time at Hale End was amazing and I’ve got so much to thank all the staff there for. I was a good player when I joined Arsenal, but my technical ability wasn’t there and that’s something I’ve developed here. I understand the game so much better and I feel like I’ve got the ability to play under pressure now. I’ve gained so much experience from my time here and there’s no way that I’d be where I am today without Arsenal.
If I had to describe my style of play, I’d say that I’m a very defensive minded player. I can play as a centre back or full back and I’m a very athletic and aggressive defender. Picking up the ball and driving out has always been something that I’m good at, but now I’m working even harder to improve my passing and ability to be in control in difficult situations. Above all else, I just love to defend. I’ve always had a defend-first mentality and I think that’s something my team-mates appreciate!
I made my debut for the under-18s last season and that was a really good experience for me. I was really excited because I felt like I deserved the opportunity, but I was also nervous because the jump from under-16s to under-18s football is really fast and it’s definitely a big step up too. It’s not the same as under-16s because mentally you need to be so much sharper. It’s definitely more physical too and it’s been a great challenge for me in every game.
In terms of my goals for this season, all I want to do is secure my place in the under-18s side. I want to get my name on that teamsheet as much as possible, just picking up appearances whenever possible, and then hopefully after showing my ability on a consistent basis I can become a regular starter, week in, week out.
Just finally, I’d like to use this time to say just how proud I am of the black history that we have here at Arsenal. It’s Black History Month right now and over the years we’ve seen some of the very best to ever play the game represent this club and everything that it stands for. In my mind, a fairer game is always going to be a better game.
The recent group of young black players we’ve seen make the step up to the first team is amazing too. Eddie, Ainsley, Reiss, Bukayo, Folarin, it’s something we can be incredibly proud of and it shows all young kids that there’s a way to make it.
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