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 attacking midfielder, Kido Taylor-Hart.
Growing up, I had an interesting relationship with football. Unlike most in my age group here at Arsenal, I started playing quite late and to be honest, I never really used to watch games in the way that others did.
You see, my dad didn’t really pay much attention to football and because of that, I didn’t really have a team to support growing up. For me, football was just a way to have fun with my friends and express myself a bit, I guess. But that all started to change when my friend’s dad was watching me play out in the street and thought I had something about me. He told my dad right away, and although my dad doesn’t know too much about football, he took his word. He was the first person to really believe in me as a footballer, I think.
Street football has definitely played a really important role in my development as a player. It’s all about close control and technical skills and those are the kind of traits that will follow you throughout your whole career. It’s probably why we have so many technical players in the England youth system right now. I had a wall directly opposite my house as a kid and that was perfect for kickabouts with my mates. I also had a Power League just around the corner too. As a kid, I loved playing there because everyone used it as a space to just freestyle and kind of go with the flow. You’re not really thinking too much, you just have to adapt, and over time, those skills and movements become more and more natural.
Now, when I was playing at school and with my mates, I could tell that I was a good player. I could skip past defenders with ease and do things others couldn’t, but when I arrived at Arsenal, I was probably the worst person there. I remember feeling like the only thing I could offer was my pace. Everyone else was just so good!
As I’ve already explained, it’s not like I didn’t like football growing up, I just didn’t watch it and love it in the same way that others did. In terms of my technical and physical ability, I was a very raw player and needed coaching.
Genuinely, it wasn’t until I was 14 that I started to really gain an understanding of tactics and how to approach certain things in game. Because I wasn’t exposed to football in the way many others were, it took me a little longer, but I’ve given it a lot of attention over the years and I’ve changed as a player for the better.
Last year was my first up at London Colney and overall I’d say I did alright, but it was quite a frustrating and testing period for me. Just before I came to Colney I was out of form and knew that I could do more, so when I arrived here and started finding my form again, I was buzzing, but then I broke one of my toes against Reading and that killed my rhythm. Then we were hit by coronavirus just as I was getting back to fitness! That was tough for me mentally because I just wanted to put a run of games together.
When I’m out of form, I always feel like I’m forcing things. I’m trying too hard and I feel like I’m trying to be too smart. I know it’s the wrong thing to do because when I’m in form, I always feel like I’m flowing and playing with instinct. When I’m at my best, I don’t think, I just do. It goes without saying that it comes with good practice and good habits, though!
I feel like that’s why I’ve really kicked on this season. Throughout my career, my end product has never been my standout attribute. I’ve always been able to get into the box, but then I’d let myself down because my first thought was to pass. I used to get a lot of assists, but I’ve never been a goalscorer and that’s something I realised I had to change. The moment that made me realise that was when I was away with England Under-16s and I wasn’t called back after a tournament. They told me I didn’t take a single shot in the whole tournament and that I need to become more deadly in the final third. Since then, I’ve been working on adding that clinical side to my game – and I think it’s paying off!
Serge Gnabry is a player I really look up to in that regard. He was always a very talented player here at Arsenal, but he never put up crazy numbers and over time he’s become more direct, aggressive and sharp with his runs and shot selection. I want to add that to my game too.
As for today’s game, I’m proud that as a member of our academy, we’ll be remembering a true Arsenal legend, David Rocastle. As a player, he was before my time, but his legacy around the club and especially the academy lives on. He’s got the Indoor Sports Hall named after him and I think little details like those are important because kids at Hale End will remember his name for generations. Homegrown players and the academy system has given this club so much talent and so many memories over the years.
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