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 Sebastian Ferdinand.
At 16, I’ve already come a long way since the three-year-old who would kick a football about in the park opposite his house. Anywhere in St Albans where there was green space, you’d find me playing!
At the first opportunity, I wanted to join a Sunday league team, so where better than my local side, London Colney Colts, where my dad was the coach! He trained me from the age of six until I was 13, which is when I signed for Arsenal. He played a huge part in my football career and still plays a big part to this day.
My Arsenal Under-18 teammates, Alexei Rojas and Omari Benjamin, also played for Colts and we all signed for Arsenal in the same season. We grew up together! The Colts used to play and train over in Borehamwood, opposite Meadow Park. After training on Fridays, we’d sometimes go and watch the Arsenal Under-21 matches. It’s so wild to think that there could be kids watching me there soon.
My scouting journey at Arsenal was a whirlwind. After one of our Sunday league games, a scout came over to me and Omari and told us: “You two boys are going in for a trial game at Arsenal: be ready next Tuesday.” I was a bit shocked. I remember turning up for that trial game and it was crazy because everyone was silent. Alexei was already on trial with Arsenal at the time, so he was on the other team as all the new triallists took on the current Arsenal Academy. Omari came on at half-time and scored a hat-trick!
In another trial game, my eventual teammate Luis Brown was on the other team and we actually beefed a little during the match! We both went for a 50/50 ball and I must have said “he only uses his left foot.” The only problem was...he heard me, and didn’t leave me alone all game!
Luis and I became real friends once I’d joined the Academy, so I think he’s forgiven me for the left foot comment now! In my debut Under-13s game, he played a through ball to me, and I scored a left-footed toe punt through the goalkeeper’s legs.
I also trialled at Norwich, Reading, Stevenage, and Crystal Palace. None of them worked out but of course, it turned out for the best! I took a bit of a break from going on trials to focus on my development and Arsenal came at the right time for me. Playing at Sunday League level for a while helped me really appreciate the things that I have now because sometimes it’s easy to take it for granted. Signing for a club aged 13 after years of Sunday league is ideal because you get the best of both worlds.
I officially signed for Arsenal about halfway through my eight-week trial. The work didn’t stop there, though. I’ll never forget my first tour with the club to Florida. Playing great international teams really opened my eyes to how good footballers are elsewhere in the world. That was a pivotal point in my career because you can be comfortable at Arsenal, but when you see the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, and PSG, you realise there are a lot of people doing the work. It really motivated me to get better.
For Omari and me, Arsenal saw our potential and gave us that platform. Our combination on the pitch has been feared far and wide from grassroots football! Now, we’re building that reputation in academy football. People know us as two boys from the same club and we link up well on and off the pitch.
Seeing Omari, as one of my best friends, score a hat-trick in the under-18s north London derby was pretty special. But it was special to play in the game myself as it’s a classic fixture at every level. Before the match, our coach Jack Wilshere even got Cesc Fabregas to share a message with us to show us what it really means. We’re a very passionate bunch and when Jack’s talking to us, we believe in everything he tells us because he’s been there and done it. He’s been great for the game and for the club.
In terms of my game, I think of myself as a tricky winger who works hard in and out of possession and can contribute with goals and assists to help the team. I’d love to get 20 goals and 10 assists across all competitions this season because as an attacker, that’s where the money’s made and where titles are won. But that will come.
With Jack, I’m definitely working on my defensive actions and fine-tuning my finishing. I wouldn’t say I’m a bad finisher, but you can always get better! Just looking at the Premier League, Erling Haaland’s already scored 11 goals this season! If you want to compete with the likes of him, you’ve got to be exceptional at finishing.
Particularly within our club, I really look up to Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Jesus – all of them, really. Their flare and fearlessness to go at any player is something I’d love to add to my game. It’s especially inspirational to watch the boys who’ve made it through Hale End, because you look at their progress and wonder, could I be next?
And finally, before you ask, I’m not a relation of any of the Ferdinands! Rio Ferdinand, Les Ferdinand – they’ve been brilliant for the game. But I’m trying to be my own Ferdinand. I want to make headlines for being Seb Ferdinand.
Copyright 2022 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.