Picture from: Kent Online
After weeks of speculation, Arsenal finally clinched the signing of fifteen year old striker Luke Freeman from Gillingham for a fee of around £200,000. A whole host of clubs, including Newcastle and West Ham were said to be interested in Luke and Gillingham were reluctant to sell, but in the end Arsenal’s offer was too strong. Luke began his career at Charlton Athletic before being released and eventually joined Gillingham at the age of eleven. After working his way through the Club’s youth ranks, he made his first-team debut against Barnet in the FA Cup and became not only Gillingham’s youngest ever player, but also the youngest player to play in the FA Cup. Having broke these two records, Luke came to the attention of several top flight scouts, before Arsenal won the race to sign him.
As he was Arsenal’s only signing of the January transfer window, a lot of people were keen to see Luke play. There was a lot expected of him and there was a lot of pressure on the young boy. He made his Arsenal debut in a 1-0 victory over TB Mambeze at the training ground and impressed with his energetic performance. He made his league debut the following weekend against Ipswich, but failed to impress. Luke found it difficult to come into a team that was not playing well and was lacking ideas. However, he kept his place for the visit of West Ham the following weekend and gave a much improved performance, despite being up against players twice the size of him. He showed good strength and agility and fired a couple of tame shots at the ‘keeper. For the next game he was named on the bench, but came on just before half-time after Sanchez Watt suffered concussion. In this game Freeman scored his first Arsenal goals. The first was an accurate strike from close range, the second a pinpoint header into the right hand corner of the net. He is certainly a talent and has a good first touch, but physically he has a long way to go yet. Don’t expect too much of him too soon, but Luke Freeman is certainly one for the future.
Name: Luke Freeman
Age: 15 (turns 16 on March 22, 2008)
Previous clubs: Gravesham, Charlton, Gillingham
Gillingham: 1 (FA Cup)
Arsenal u-18s: 2+1 (2)
Statistics correct as of 15 February 2008, + = sub appearances, goals in brackets.