Eddie Nketiah says he was a childhood Arsenal fan, and grew up watching legendary strikers like Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Ian Wright.
Nketiah made the headlines after his impressive home debut against Norwich on Tuesday evening, scoring both the equaliser and the winner after coming off the bench with five minutes of normal time to go.
The 18-year-old told Arsenal Player that he was just happy to get a chance to live his dream, saying: “I’m just thankful for the boss for giving me that opportunity to play and show what I can do – it’s a dream come true for me to get on and score not just one, but two goals to win us the game.
“That’s the most important thing and I’m just thankful for all the fans for the support they gave me, it’s great. I’m a childhood fan of the club, so for the fans to get behind me like that is a dream come true, I’m delighted and grateful.
“It’s overwhelming [to hear the fans singing my name], but you have to remember you’re here for a job and try to stay focused on the game… but it’s a great feeling. I’ve always dreamt of this as a kid and hopefully they can continue to support me and I can continue to get chances and impress them really, that’s what it’s about.
“[I grew up watching] Thierry, Dennis Bergkamp, Ian Wright – they were all great strikers and attacking players and I watched them a lot, especially Thierry. When he was working with us [at the club] I used to work with him quite a bit on and off the field, so I’m just trying to emulate even a little bit of what they can do, that would a dream come true for me.”
For me, and I’m sure for many other fans too, it does add an extra bit of pride to see youngsters like Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson come through the academy to prove themselves in the first-team. It’s especially gratifying to hear them both say that they were Arsenal fans as children.
When players like Cesc Fabregas came through in the past it was nice having an academy product in the team, but you always felt that his heart was somewhere else. In his case, it was back in Barcelona. With Eddie and Reiss, they don’t need to move to Spain to live their childhood dreams, their idols growing up played their football in North London.
Henry congratulated Nketiah after the game on Twitter, which must make it even more satisfying for the youngster. You can’t do much better than earning the approval of those who inspired you in the first place. Now, he just needs to keep in mind that it was just one game and move onto the next.
Luckily, thanks to him, there will be another League Cup opportunity coming up before Christmas, as well as the final three Europa League matches in the meantime.