Growing up and trying to make it at a club is hard. It’s even harder when that club is one like Arsenal, with worldwide scouts.
“I’ve seen kids from all over the world – Romania, Argentina, Spain – they bring them in at such young ages, it’s like your fighting for your life at such a young age,” Reice Charles-Cook told realsport101.com.
The talented 21-year-old goalkeeper is now playing for Coventry City, but he had harboured hopes of playing for Arsenal one day. Growing up in London, he trained with Arsenal from the age of 7 until he was released at the age of 19 just two years ago.
It wasn’t always easy until then, as he explains.
“At u16 level, there were a few good keepers around me, and I was the smallest one and didn’t grow until late, so was often playing a year down at times, it was hard.”
Nonetheless, Charles-Cook earned a scholarship with the club and seemed to be making progress.
I was at a 4-2 win at Underhill against Athletic Club in the Next Gen series and Charles-Cook, alongside Héctor Bellerín and Chuba Akpom, was very impressive.
“My first year wasn’t the best year. I was playing in the u16s when I should be playing u18s. Then in my second year, I’ve never worked harder in my life. It was mad, they brought in Emiliano Martinez and a few others, and were always trying to bring in more keepers. It was tough.
“Then I was playing in the Next Gen tournament, and I carried Arsenal through, winning goalkeeper of the tournament, but then they threw me away, and said they didn’t need me anymore. They told me they signed a keeper from a division three Macedonian club, and that was it. But it’s just the way football goes sometimes.”
That goalkeeper is Dejan Iliev, who is yet to play for Arsenal u21s this season after seven appearances in the last campaign.
It shows just how tough it is, and it’s a pleasure to see that Charles-Cook has landed on his feet. The football club is like a family, but that can also mean a family can taken away and that must be incredibly difficult to face as a young player.
Hopefully Arsenal can keep giving opportunities to local players while bringing in top talent from abroad.