As a kid we all want to replicate our heroes and follow in their footsteps – whether that’s a desire to run around the streets in a black cape and mask, or running around a pitch in your favourite teams’ colours. Sometimes the closest we get to ‘living the dream’ is in a virtual world. However, in a world where Crawley Town can win the Premier League, the sense of reality can sometimes evade our grips, slipping into a big pile of beautiful fantasy.
Some footballers live their dreams by becoming professionals, but somewhere along the line they tend to lose sight of their aspirations and succumb to the lure of the money that’s drowning the sport. But for others, dreams really do come true and the pull of playing for your team is hard to resist.
I am a fan of this Club and that will never change. I am just lucky enough to have been given the ability and the chance to play for my club. I was going to watch Arsenal the same as the fans were and [now] just count myself very lucky to represent them as a fan who has become a player. – Carl Jenkinson
Carl comes from a family filled with life-long, ardent Arsenal fans. Much like you or me, his family supports one club. So he had no choice who he would grow up supporting. It was always going to be Arsenal. He was there when Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal won their first league title under the Frenchman. In 2004, when we went the season unbeaten, Carl was there at the last match – a 2-1 win versus Leicester.
What endeared Carl to the Arsenal fans is his love for the club. And that love for the club, the desire to do well and the fact he knows the importance of the opportunity he has was all squashed into a small stone outside the ground, engraved with the words, ‘Grandad, hope you’re proud. Carl Jenkinson’.
His grandad, like his father, is a massive Arsenal fan. And he unfortunately wasn’t able to see his grandchild play for his beloved Arsenal. That would’ve been remarkable and he explains,
“It’s a regret that he has not been able to watch me, but I am sure he is looking down at how things are going for me and the fact I’m playing for Arsenal.”
His family even threw him an Arsenal-themed party when he signed for the gunners. His brother told of the story of him being filled with excitement and his friends asking why he was a bit more chipper, and for many reasons, he couldn’t say. He couldn’t tell them that his brother was about to sign for the families’ much loved Arsenal. He could only tell them to buy a newspaper in the next few days.
He is a ‘proper gooner’ and used to sit in the stands watching Arsenal, singing along and supporting like many others do. But he’s made the transition from the stands to the pitch.
In an interview recently, he spoke about his dream:
When Arsenal signed me it blew me away. It was all a bit of a blur. It was my dream. You always want to play for the club you support. It was just a big shock, more I was so happy that Arsenal had come in and wanted to sign me.
I’d be happy too, Jenko. He really is living out his dream.
What makes his story remarkable, as well as inspiring, is his rapid rise to fame.
Carl joined Charlton as an 8-year-old and grew up in the academy. in 2010 he joined Eastbourne Borough on loan, a side in the 6th tier of English football. He played 4 games for them then joined Welling United, again, on a loan. He managed to make 10 appearances for them – 2 more than he managed for Charlton. The team he has the most experience with is, surprisingly, Arsenal. It was never the intention for him to play so often but injury to Bacary Sagna means he’s had to earn his swimming badges.
It’s quite amazing that just 2 years ago he was playing football so far down the leagues. I’m not entirely sure many people were expecting him to make it to the Premier League, let alone to Arsenal. There’s still some way to go but the signs sure do look positive.
I guess it shows the brilliance of Arsenal’s scouting system – signing a complete unknown and making him much, much better. It’s not the first time.
This season, Carl has come on leaps and bounds. His tireless determination and drive means that Sagna’s place may not be as given as it once was. He’s a natural athlete. He used to run a few races at school. His athleticism helps him get forward really well, providing great support for the right-winger. He can cross the ball well and you’ll often find him in the positions to do just that.
It’s a huge difference to his first season. He showed a few glimpses but nothing special, and I suppose a lot of the scepticism was down to his performance at Old Trafford. Arsenal lost, I’ve forgotten the score, and he was sent off. It wasn’t great but a back injury meant he couldn’t progress further.
This season he has played exceptionally well. He’s managed to deal with some tricky wingers and has surprised quite a few people with his pace. 1 on 1 he’s a very good defender, at 6ft1 he’s the size of an old-school right-back and he’s good in the air, his passing is improving – as is his positioning – and the psychological aspect of his game is getting there. He is still very raw but if his development carries on improving at this speed then we do have a very good right-back for the future, and at the moment, for now.
Nothing is promised in football so we shouldn’t take his improvement for granted. There’s no surprise he’s settled this season. Arsene Wenger is capable of getting the best out of his players, and Steve Bould knows what it takes to be a top class defender. On top of that, last season, he was under the tutelage of a man who played 397 games at right-back for Arsenal – Pat Rice. I think people forgets Pat’s input, unfortunately.
Carl has learnt from the best and it’s those around him that make him one for the future for club and country – whether that’s England or Finland. He’s living his dream and for that reason alone, he will always, always, always, always, always give 110% when wearing the colours of the Arsenal.
Few are lucky enough to see their dreams materialise, to see dreams becoming reality, but Carl Daniel Jenkinson has had that exact pleasure. From the conference to the Champions League. It really is a fairytale story. Let’s just hope they all live happily ever after. The End.