Throughout the season, we'll be catching up with our young Gunners to find out more about their route to our academy. This week, Louie Copley discusses how much it means to play for the club he grew up supporting, being inspired by the first team and more.
Firstly I’m an Essex boy born and bred, I was born in Southend Hospital and I’ve lived in the area my whole life. It was my mum’s side of the family that got me into football because I would watch Arsenal matches with them and they were all Arsenal fans so I had no choice but to support the famous red and white.
One of my earliest footballing memories was my first live Arsenal game at the Emirates. It was the game when Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick and we beat Newcastle 7-3 in 2012. I’ll always remember Walcott's third goal when he got fouled but he played on and scored that brilliant goal.
Growing up, I looked up to a player like Jack Wilshere, given that he’s come through the academy and was a first-team regular for Arsenal. When I first came to training and saw him it was mental and it’s still crazy to this day that he’s now my coach but it’s an honour to learn from him every day. I also looked up to Tomas Rosicky, I liked his energy, and style of play plus he loved a big goal against Tottenham!
"I looked up to Wilshere growing up. It's still crazy that he's now my coach!"
From when I was four or five, I would kick a ball about and play with the older age groups. Then at seven, I joined my first pre-academy. At the time, you could train with multiple teams so I was training with both Southend United and Colchester United. Not long after that, I went to Charlton Athletic and played a few matches for them before signing for West Ham United at under-9 level.
I was at West Ham for three seasons before being offered a trial by Arsenal – a dream come true for a Gooner. However, it wasn’t a smooth transition due to my registration and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get the chance to play for the Gunners. It got to a point that I decided to take up trials for Chelsea and Fulham because it was taking that long. Finally, the official confirmation came through and everything was cleared. I was an Arsenal player – a massive sigh of relief.
But, the bad luck continued. During my first training session back at Hale End, I got a concussion when I collided with a teammate and that kept me out for a month and a half. Frustrating because I hadn’t played for so long prior, but at least I knew this time that I was an official player at the club.
When it came to getting my scholarship, I wasn’t too sure because, in my under-14 season, I was fit, firing and playing well. But then the next season as an under-15, I missed a large chunk of the season with a stress fracture. I was aware that the middle of the next season is when you get offered a scholarship. So, I worked really hard in the pre-season, knowing that this upcoming season was going to be extremely important for my future. But, just as the season was about to begin, I broke my wrist - that kept me out for two months! The luck wasn’t on my side but I got back fit and got my scholar so hopefully I can kick on this year and next year.
I'm so grateful to Per and Luke for having faith in me. They know what I can do when I’m fit and I’m super privileged to be able to play for The Arsenal.
"I was a linesman and I kept flagging Reiss Nelson offside!"
When I first arrived at London Colney, I was in awe of the building, it’s so big! I had to ask people where to go but it’s a high-quality facility and we have the best resources and coaches to reach our full potential. There's been a couple of funny moments. One of them was when I was training with the under-21s and Reiss Nelson was with us as he was coming back from injury. We were doing a training drill and I was a linesman but I kept flagging him offside. After the session, he came up to me and joked with me that I was getting the decisions wrong, which was funny. Reiss is a top guy and his journey at Arsenal is inspiring for all of us.
During the World Cup last December, I got to train with the first team which was a surreal experience. Having the opportunity to play with and against the likes of Jesus, Zinchenko and Ben White was a fantastic challenge. Having trained with the 18s, 21s, and first team, you notice how much the intensity increases at each level. The touches they produce are out of this world and they know exactly where the next pass is. They’re a step ahead each time. But, it's a great learning curve for us as we get a first-hand experience of where we need to be if we want to become a first-team player at Arsenal.
This season, I'm hoping to get at least 20 goal contributions for the under-18s. I’ve started the season well, scoring against West Ham in a 2-0 win. I was buzzing because I’m not usually a player that scores many goals but I want to kick on and improve my statistics this season and get as far in the FA Youth Cup as possible.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.