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 winger Matthew Dennis.
- Find out more about Sam Greenwood's start to life with the under-18's
- Arthur Okonkwo discusses the season so far and who he looks up to
It’s been a bit of a mixed start to my career as a scholar. I had a decent but very draining pre-season. It took some time to get used to the physical demands of training every day but once I did I was ready to go. I played three pre-season games, but unfortunately I got injured in the first match of the season against Aston Villa, tearing the ligaments in my ankle.
I think being injured has made me realise how much I really value training and playing, and it gives you an extra motivation to make the most of every second when you get back.
Going back to last season, before I was offered a scholarship, I think that the coaches felt that I wasn’t fully focused. They decided to send me to train for two weeks with the under-18s. That was a real eye-opener for me. I saw what was needed. I saw how the first-year scholars were expected to apply themselves.
I went back after those two weeks and I think they saw that I had benefited, that I was itching to get back playing, and then offered me a scholarship.
I’ve also learnt a lot about injuries and the recovery process in recent weeks. I’ve been doing exactly as I’ve been told and eating even better to aid recovery. Some people struggle when injured because they try to break the boredom and maybe go out and socialise. That’s not an option for me. I am simply not allowed out on a weekday or before games, my dad makes sure of that!
I did previously have an insight as to the differences of under-18s football compared to schoolboy games when I was 15. I travelled with the under-19s to the Dallas Cup. I played four games and it struck me how much faster they were, but what made the biggest impression on me was that the approach was more serious and more professional. I could see the standards I would have to achieve.
I first joined Arsenal when I was six years old. I was playing in a tournament for my local side in Mill Hill and a scout approached my dad and invited me for a trial. I had also been approached by Chelsea and had a trial with them too. Both wanted to sign me, but my dad said that we should go with Arsenal which I was happy about because I was a fan.
Although Arsenal saw me playing in midfield, when I joined I mostly played as a full back or centre back. After a while though I moved more into midfield and now I play mainly on the wing. I’m quite quick and powerful and I am now looking to try and add goals this year and to further improve the quality of my crossing.
My main target is to try to and become more consistent in every game. That comes from working hard in training and listening to my coaches. I hope that will mean plenty of games for the under-18s and, hopefully, even be involved with the under-23s.
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