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Smith Rowe exclusive: Arsenal is everything… I want to emulate icons


“It’s everything,” he says. “I can’t see myself anywhere else. Being an Arsenal fan from a young age, there is nothing better I’d rather be doing than playing for the club and the fans as well. It just makes it extra special for me.”

The grin momentarily fades off Smith Rowe’s face, but quickly returns when he is asked about Arsenal’s recent 3-1 win over Tottenham, which was spearheaded by himself and fellow academy graduate Bukayo Saka.

“That was probably the best feeling we’ve had together,” he says. “The day before we actually spoke at dinner and we were just imagining if one of us scored or assisted.

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“Those are the moments you dream of and we were so happy for each other. Our families were both in the stadium as well and looking up to them was the best feeling ever.”

The journey to days like that has not been easy for Smith Rowe, who grew up in Croydon and would travel to Hale End for training sessions with Arsenal’s academy.

His mum and dad would rotate driving duties, ensuring their son never missed a session as he looked to make the grade at Arsenal.

“It was really difficult to be honest,” says Smith Rowe. “I’d literally finish school and have to rush straight off to the motorway, get changed in the car, and then as soon as I got there I’d jump out straight onto the astro at Hale End.

“It was difficult, but I don’t regret anything. I wouldn’t change anything.”

Before he was honing his skills at Hale End, Smith Rowe would spend his time playing football with his brother, dad and friends in the cage behind his house.

Arsenal

“It was literally right behind my house,” he explains. “I could jump over my garden and straight into the cage.

“There was a little river in between and I just had to jump over that. It was easy because I could just jump straight back over when my mum called me back in. It was good.

“I used to go there all the time with my friends, dad and brother. They were good memories.”

Both Smith Rowe’s brother and dad had a big influence on his football education. His brother would show him clips of Arsenal greats such as Robert Pires and Thierry Henry, while his dad opted for montages of Barcelona legends Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

Smith Rowe’s own heroes were Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho, but his love for Arsenal grew as he looked up to his older brother.

“My big brother, being an Arsenal fan as well, always used to show me videos,” he says. “My dad was a Tottenham fan…which didn’t go down quite so well in the house!

“[I support Arsenal] just because I always looked up to my brother. I was always close with him and he taught me football from a young age.

“Obviously my dad did as well, but it was my brother that I mainly looked up to when we would be in the garden, playing around.”

Football wasn’t the only thing Smith Rowe’s family taught him from a young age as they also stressed to him the importance of helping the community. Just as he hasn’t forgotten the video clips of Iniesta, Smith Rowe hasn’t forgotten the importance of that and he has thrown himself into plenty of projects at Arsenal.

This latest one explains why he is conducting this interview from a barber’s chair at JNF Haircutters, which is a stone’s throw from Emirates Stadium, as he has just spent time there filming an advert with the owner, Jimmy Patsalou.

Arsenal

It is part of the Arsenal Supporting Supporters campaign which, in a throwback to the old player-business partnerships from years gone by, has seen players pair up with local businesses to promote them and generate more footfall around match days.

Rob Holding has already linked up with local pub, The Tollington, and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has joined up with car business Autoparts.

“Coming here and learning how much Arsenal means to them, you find out a little more about the local community,” says Smith Rowe. “I just want to repay the faith.”

“It’s been good,” he says. “Seeing him now, and getting a chance to train with him, he’s still got it.

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“His technique is unbelievable. It’s great to have him around the training ground. I am sure he will be helping me a lot.”

Wilshere can no doubt help Smith Rowe with understanding the pressures of wearing the famous No10 shirt, which the 21-year-old took on this summer after signing his new contract.

“I feel like it is such an iconic number. So many great players have worn it, not just at Arsenal, but even at other clubs as well,” he says.

“There are so many great players that have worn the No10 and I feel like it was a challenge I wanted to take on. I wanted to prove myself and prove I am capable of wearing it. I want to keep working hard and hopefully the fans can see I am capable of wearing it.”


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