Throughout the season, we'll be catching up with our young Gunners to find out more about their route to our academy. This week, Will Sweet discusses childhood memories, having his brother also play for Arsenal, and playing under his hero Jack Wilshere.
I grew up in Wimbledon, and my introduction to football came from attending my older brother James’ training sessions, where I would kick a ball around with my dad. James, who is three years older than me and also in the Arsenal Academy, was a big role model and has had a big influence on my football journey.
I started playing football at the age of four and attended Ewell Castle School, where I played for the school team throughout my time there. Although football has always been my primary sport, I dabbled in cricket during my younger years and found it an enjoyable diversion.
When my brother joined Arsenal at the age of eight, I was able to watch his training sessions. While I was there, one of the coaches allowed me to join in with the under-5s and within a season I had joined officially. From then on, I’ve been part of the Academy set-up.
"I emulated Wilshere's style, from the boots he wore to the way he played the game"
Growing up I looked up to Jack Wilshere, who now happens to be my Under-18s coach. I vividly remember emulating his style, from the specific boots he wore to the way he played the game. One of my favourite memories of Jack Wilshere is his goal against Norwich, which, in my opinion, stands as one of the best in Premier League history. Being coached by him is a privilege, given his extensive international and Champions League experience. He has had a big influence on my development.
I originally played as a left winger until I was around eight. After that, I transitioned into a left-sided centre back, a position I’ve grown to love. I appreciate the vantage point it offers, allowing me to survey the entire pitch and make a meaningful impact on the game.
One of the most memorable moments in Hale End days was the Under-11 Futsal Tournament, where we were 2-0 down to Norwich in the final but displayed amazing character to mount a comeback and secure a dramatic 3-2 victory.
Receiving my scholarship was an amazing feeling, a dream come true. By that point I’d been a part of the club for most of my life, and the realisation that I would be at London Colney was truly amazing. Having my older brother by my side in the same set-up has been invaluable, strengthening our bond as we see each other every day. My ultimate dream would be for us to play on the pitch together for the Arsenal first team one day. At the club, we have several brother combinations, including Brian and Arthur Okonkwo and Ismail and Salah Eddine Oulad M’Hand.
Being at London Colney and witnessing Academy players rise to the first team is highly motivating. Seeing my brother on the bench in the Brentford Carabao Cup game and Charles Sagoe Jr starting is a testament to the pathways available at the club for those who work hard. The emergence of players like Bukayo, Eddie, Reiss and Emile from the academy further fuels my ambition.
"We were tasked with man-marking Reiss and Emile, which proved no easy feat!"
Another recent high point for me was scoring my first goal for the Under-18s in the Premier League Cup against Middlesbrough. It was the winning goal, we secured a clean sheet away from home and it was a much-needed victory after drawing our first game against West Ham. Hopefully I can contribute more goals throughout the season.
I’ve had the opportunity to train with the first team on a few occasions, and it was a big challenge. In one particular drill, Zac Shuaib and I were tasked with man-marking Reiss Nelson and Emile Smith Rowe, which proved to be no easy feat. The speed of passing and movement was ten times quicker than I expected. In general the first team have been fantastic with us, and Eddie Nketiah in particular stands out as a humble and approachable figure. I was thrilled to see him score his first Premier League hat-trick for the club against Sheffield United.
In terms of my heritage, I’m a blend of English, Welsh and Irish. I’ve already had the incredible experience of representing Wales at under-16 level, a moment of immense pride given the rich football history of the country.
Looking ahead, my goals for the remainder of the season include playing as many games as possible for the Under-18s and, if the opportunity arises, progressing even higher up the ranks. The FA Youth Cup is just around the corner and I really want to contribute to our journey.
Before every game, I have a quirky ritual – I must step onto the pitch with my left foot. Oh, and any items I need on the bench must be placed on the furthest right seat beneath the bench. Whether a water bottle or a towel, this ritual brings me comfort and consistency.
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