Throughout the season, we'll be catching up with our young Gunners to find out more about their route to our academy. This week, it's Luis Brown.
The footballing legacy in my family is impossible to ignore. From my grandad Ken – a West Ham legend – to my dad Kenny, who has played everywhere from Plymouth to Torrevieja, it has always felt inevitable that I would follow in their footsteps. I’ve always wanted to be a footballer – there’s no other job in the world I’d rather do.
My journey to Arsenal and London Colney has been an interesting one. I was born in Spain, while my dad was managing a club in Valencia, and it wasn’t long before I stepped out onto the pitch... as the team’s mascot!
My dad’s playing and coaching experience still comes in handy, and he always gives me good advice – not that I’d ever tell him that, of course! Even though Dad’s the one who introduced me to football, I definitely can’t leave my mum out. After years of watching my dad play across the country, she then took me to training every single day, and I couldn’t appreciate it more. Now I’m nearly driving, she can finally rest!
We moved back to England just after I turned five and although the pronunciation of my name changed, my love of football didn’t. I started playing Sunday league for Byron Red Star and, looking back on it, we were a pretty decent side. Some of the lads went to Tottenham, West Ham and Bournemouth, and we keep in touch even though we’re competing against each other now.
Alongside Sunday league, I played for Arsenal, Chelsea, and West Ham until under-9 level, which is the year you have to choose one team. Growing up in a die-hard West Ham household didn’t make it an easy choice, but after speaking with my family it became clear that there was only one option. Arsenal had the better coaches, the better facilities and the better players. Once I’d decided, there was no turning back. It was time for Hale End.
Those years at the academy were such a formative time for me. There were many people who helped along the way, in particular my academy coach Adam Birchall. He had a transformational impact on who I am as a player and a person.
As well as being my coach for over five years, I can safely say that he’s also my friend off the pitch. Having that trust is so important because you know when he tells you something, he’s telling you honestly. That has been such a huge thing for my development.
A standout memory of playing with Adam as my coach came at the under-15s level and the first round of a cup competition. We were thrashed 7-0. But when we went back to the dressing rooms at full time, Adam simply told us, “Boys, I promise you that you’ll make it to the final of this cup.” From that moment on, we flipped a switch. We worked hard, we believed in ourselves and, in the end, the only thing that stopped us from making it to that cup final was Covid. I’ll never know if we would have won that trophy, but it’s enough to recognise how far we came as a team after that initial defeat.
I'm in my first full season in the Under- 18s and Jack Wilshere has just joined as our coach. It was such a relief when I got finally got a scholarship to London Colney after years of hard work and watching my mates get their chances. I’ve got to shout out Rachel in my Colney digs for helping to make my move from Hale End as easy as possible. She’s like a second mum, really!
My plan for the rest of this season is to play well for the Under-18s and keep linking up with my centre-back partner Maldini Kacurri, who I love playing with. If that continues, maybe I’ll get a chance to step up. I’m just taking each day as it comes.
The youth development here motivates you to be better. Seeing Bradley Ibrahim train with the first team as a first-year scholar was really inspiring and obviously, it’s incredible to see the journey of Hale End graduates like Saka and Smith Rowe. But as a defender, I’d love to play like William Saliba or Ben White with their skill and versatility.
Leadership is a vital part of my game and I have Alex Hepton at Hale End to thank for that, as he helped me channel my wild energy as a child into something more focused. I’ve gone on to prove what I can do as a leader on the pitch by even wearing the captain’s armband on my England debut.
Over the summer I got goosebumps seeing Leah Williamson lift the Euros trophy for the Lionesses as a fellow Gunner and England captain. The men were so close and the women did it, and it makes you realise that these achievements aren’t that far out of reach.
There are countless dreams you have as a kid, from league titles to Ballon d’Ors, but I think lifting the World Cup for my country will always be at the very top of that list.
It can’t get any better than that.
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