Throughout the season, we'll be catching up with our young Gunners to find out more about their route to our academy. This week, Reece Clairmont discusses his Arsenal fandom, starting his trial with us, arriving at London Colney and more.
I grew up in the east London/Essex area around Hainault. My football journey began in Year 1 when my dad encouraged me to be more active. I took his advice and I decided to start playing football.
Personally, I have roots in Barbados, with my dad being born there, as well as my mum’s parents. I highly recommend trying a traditional Bajan snack known as a “bread and two”, which is basically deep-fried cod fishcakes put in a sandwich and broken in two. My heritage is a source of pride, and I hope to represent Barbados in the future if given the opportunity.
I’m a massive Arsenal fan and I vividly remember my very first Arsenal shirt, which had Alexis on the back when he signed for the club. He was my favourite player, and I even wore the same boots. My favourite memories from him would be his goal against Manchester United and his iconic strike against Aston Villa in the 2015 FA Cup Final.
"I wanted to copy the skilful styles of Cristiano Ronaldo and Alexis Sanchez"
In my early days on the pitch I started as a centre back, primarily because I was the tallest in my age group, but I wanted to copy the skilful styles of Cristiano Ronaldo and Alexis Sanchez. Given that I couldn’t do that at the back, I decided to play further forward and in my Sunday League team I played on the wing, where I could develop my game and become a more potent threat further up the pitch.
Alongside my Sunday League stints, I started to play at West Ham’s development centres and soccer schools during the half terms and summer holidays. In Year 7 I decided to drop out of Sunday League because I needed to challenge myself more, so I decided to spend more time at West Ham. While I was there we actually played against Arsenal Women’s Academy team, which included the likes of Laila Harbert, who’s a top player and current England Under-17s captain. Shortly after that I joined Ryan FC in Walthamstow. It’s very close to Hale End and I would drive past every time I went to training.
While I was at Ryan, one of my PE teachers who was influential in my career, Mr Gould, managed to get me a trial with Leyton Orient, although I could only sign with them once the season ended. But then Arsenal showed an interest in me at the time and also wanted to offer me a trial. My mum, aware of my deep attachment to Arsenal as my boyhood club, encouraged me not to take up Leyton Orient’s offer and seize the opportunity with Arsenal. Despite Orient’s readiness to sign me, I chose to pursue the Arsenal trial.
My trial at Arsenal started with the Under-14s during pre-season and I scored in my first two matches against Charlton and Chelsea. Then a couple of weeks later Adam Birchall pulled aside myself and my current team-mate Bless Akolbire and let us know that they wanted to sign us. I was so excited!
My time at Hale End was full of epic moments. From scoring on my debut against Charlton with my very first touch, to the awesome trip to Brazil, where I had the chance to face off against Independiente Medellin with the Under-17s and even managed to score a goal. Getting my scholarship offer was also an incredible feeling. To see all your hard work finally pay off was such a great feeling.
"Sharing digs with Charles Sagoe Jr, who's practically a brother, has been incredibly inspiring"
Since I arrived at London Colney I’ve discovered that under-18s football is an entirely different beast. The standard is exceptional and it demands relentless effort and improvement to stay competitive. Also, given that we are at Colney, we get to see the first team quite often. That’s great for us as it provides a clear benchmark for us aspiring young players, pushing us to raise our game and learn from their habits and techniques.
Sharing digs with Charles Sagoe Jr, who’s practically a brother to me, has been incredibly inspiring. Seeing his journey from the Under-21s to the first team and then witnessing his debut against Brentford was a reminder of what’s possible when you keep pushing and grab those opportunities with both hands. It’s living proof that persistence and determination can take you to incredible heights.
This season I want to continue my progress with the Under-18s, make my debut in the FA Youth Cup and represent the Under-19s in the UEFA Youth League. I’d also love to get my goals tally in double figures. My style is direct and dynamic, often taking on full backs one-on-one, and I can play on either flank. In terms of speed, I’m among the fastest players in the Under-18s – I’ve run 30m in 3.76 seconds.
My pre-game preparation includes praying to God to bring me inner calm and peace, and I’ll have a soothing hot bath the night before to relax my muscles and a meal of pasta and chicken. In terms of songs, I haven’t got a particular one but last season I listened to the song “Rule Of Two” by Dave and Youngs Teflon to get myself in the zone before games.
Beyond my own journey in football, I’ve also been engaged in coaching and volunteering back at my primary school in collaboration with the United Karate Association (UKA), which is headed by Luke Cuthbert. Throughout that I’ve developed a deeper understanding of the sport, both from a player’s and coach’s perspective
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