Rorie will join the Arsenal Academy full time in the summer, having impressed for the under-16s this term. He is a very versatile player, like many of the youngsters at Arsenal, but is primarily a winger. He is a product of the Hale End Academy and in 2003 played in the same Arsenal under-12s side as Jack Wilshere, Luke Ayling and Keanu Marsh-Brown (now at Fulham). He is strong in the tackle and is very determined and is equally adept at attacking too. He scored for the under-16s against MK Dons yesterday and will be hoping to be regularly involved with the under-18s next season. In the meantime, he will be hoping to further impress the coaching staff in the Nike Cup.
Midfielder Conor is a product of the Hale End Academy and will be looking to impress in his first season as a full time scholar next campaign. Liam Brady regards Conor very highly and it’s easy to see why. He likes to dominate games in the centre of midfield and can also push forward to score stunning goals, in the style of Frank Lampard. He has skippered the u-16s on many occasions and has earnt the respect of his team mates. He has pushed onto the u-18s this season and made a handful of appearances, playing in his preferred position of central midfield as well as out on the wing. A tough tackling, no-nonsense player, Conor is always up for a challenge and doesn’t let anything get in his way. He has represented both England and Ireland at Youth level but has now reportedly decided to play for England. He has been watched by scouts from several London clubs, including Chelsea and West Ham. However, Arsenal have fended off speculation regarding his future by reportedly slapping a £1 million price tag on him, and tying him down to a scholarship deal.
Picture copyright of Jeorge Bird’s Arsenal Reserves and Youth blog
Defender Kyle joined Arsenal last summer after rejecting an offer of a scholarship from his previous club Bolton Wanderers. He is strong in the tackle and is a composed, towering presence, offering support to those around him and taking control of the game. He is unfazed by the big occasion and was thrown into the limelight for the Reserves game against Fulham in January and performed admirably, despite a 2-0 defeat. Many clubs were said to be keen on signing Kyle before he came to Arsenal including Man.Utd and Man.City, but now he is enjoying life at Arsenal.
He has spent some time on the sidelines recently due to recurring injuries, but he returned to play for England u-17s in the Algarve tournament alongside fellow first-year scholar Sanchez Watt. Kyle impressed and helped England win the tournament.
One criticism of Kyle is that he doesn’t use his physical presence enough at set-pieces, especially corners. However, other teams are aware of the threat that he poses and act to close him down quickly. Kyle has added a new dimension to the u-18s play this season, forging a good partnership with Thomas Cruise who he has played alongside at Youth level.
Kyle has always dreamed of becoming a Premiership footballer and says that his greatest ambition is to play at the World Cup. If he continues his steady progress, then he has a great chance of making his dreams come true.
Name: Kyle Bartley
Age: 16 (D.O.B. 22/05/91)
Position: Centre back
Previous clubs: Bolton Wanderers
International accolades: England u-16, u-17 international.
Total: 8 (1)
Comfortable at both right-back and centre back, Paul enjoyed a fine debut season as a first year scholar. His performances impressed the coaching staff so much that, not only was he rewarded with a professional deal last summer, but he was also named in the Club’s Champions League squad and given the no.37 shirt.
It was high praise for the Edmonton-born youngster, but he hasn’t let the pressure get to him. He has captained the Reserves on occasion and is a regular in Neil Banfield’s side. He is strong in the tackle, extremely quick and is not afraid to engage in physical battles with the opposition. He put in some solid performances in the FA Youth Cup run last season and will be looking to be named in the Carling Cup squad next campaign.
Having featured in the England Youth setup before, it can’t be long now until the England u-19s manager Brian Eastick comes knocking.
Name: Paul Rodgers
Age: 18 (D.O.B. 06/10/89)
Position: Right-back/Centre back
Previous clubs: None
FA Youth Cup: 8
TOTAL: 72+16 (1)
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.
Despite having the same name as a famous actor, Thomas is out to become a household name in his own right. He made his debut for the u-18s last season and is now an integral part of Steve Bould’s side. A versatile player, Thomas can play centre back, left back, central midfield and also featured in goal against Crystal Palace after Wojciech Szczesny suffered a dislocated finger in the warm up. He has worked his way up through the ranks at the Hale End Academy and was rewarded with a scholarship in the summer. His hard-working, tenacious style of play has won him many plaudits and have seen him make his debut for the reserves this season against West Ham at Upton Park. Tommy also came on in the last few minutes of the FA Youth Cup defeat at Liverpool and became the first Arsenal player to play at the new Wembley when he played there for England u-16s against Spain last March.
Charlie is a goalkeeper who plays for Arsenal u-16s and has been likened by some to Manchester City ‘keeper Kasper Schmieichel. It’s easy to see why as they both have blonde hair, but the comparisons don’t end there. Not only is he quick and agile, but also he is a great one-on-one shot stopper. He occasionally trains with the u-18s at the training ground before matches and, at just fourteen years of age, is already taller than James Shea. With Shea set to be the regular u-18s keeper next season, Charlie should take over his berth of no.1 for the u-16s and may even play a few games for the u-18s as well. He has been at Arsenal since a young age and has played with the likes of Benik Afobe and Chucks Aneke for five to six years. He has a good understanding with his team-mates and decent kicking ability, so watch out for him in the future.