Bukayo Saka admitted he doubted he could play for Arsenal’s first team, given the array of stars in the Gunners squad.
The versatile player signed his first professional contract after turning 17, following impressive performances for the youth team.
The wing-back was then promoted to the senior team and made his debut for the Emirates Stadium outfit in their Europa League game against Vorskla Poltava back in November 2018.
Saka has since been a key figure for Arsenal and this season he boasts of three goals, his nine assists across all competitions is the most from any Gunners’ player this campaign.
The 18-year-old recollected how he started his journey to stardom, praising his Nigerian parents for their support.
“To be honest it all really started a long time before that. From the age of three or four I would be playing football at home in the garden with my dad, and my elder brother, Yomi,” he told the club website.
“I just enjoyed playing, but I don’t think I ever really thought I was going to make it to the first team until I actually signed my first professional contract when I turned 17.
“You go through the youth teams, year by year, and you see all these great players around you – some of them could be the best in the year – and slowly they are all let go, to other clubs or even stopping completely.
“So you could never be sure that you would make it, but what I said to myself is that I would always give my best in every single session. I always wanted to learn to get better, I always watched a lot of football to see how I could improve.
“But we had a big group at Hale End, and even though we had so many quality players, the coaches would always say, ‘Look around the dressing room, only maybe one or possibly two of you will make it to the first team one day.’
“We would look at each other and wonder who it would be. I was always determined for it to be me, and so I wanted to do whatever it took to achieve that.
“My mum and dad always encouraged me. They never stopped me from playing football, they just wanted to see a balance and that I was also interested in my education.”
The England U19 winger is eligible to play for the Super Eagles, given he has not featured for the Three Lions at the senior team.
Saka, who admitted back in December he is yet to decide on his international future, revealed he has visited Nigeria along with his parents.
“I was lucky enough to travel a lot when I was younger as well. Every year my mum and dad would take us away,” he continued.
“We went to Nigeria of course, where my mum and dad are both from, we went to Dubai, and to America a few times because my cousins live there. I remember going to Chicago and LA, and a few other places too.”
Saka will hope to play a key role when Arsenal take on take on Olympiakos in the second leg Round of 32 of their Europa League game on Thursday night.