Joining Arsenal at the very tender age of just 6-years-old, Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ professional career has reached new heights in north-London after stamping his claim upon Arsene Wenger’s fold last term, although as a developing youngster in the club’s coveted academy, the robust midfielder once thought that he’d never make the grade at the Emirates.
Sacrifice is a word thrown around the professional spectrum, as often than not a budding ace must focus solely on their game if they’re to be recognised as a future star, and for Maitland-Niles, the dawning realisation that his ambition of becoming a top-flight competitor was still very much within his grasp transformed him into the versatile member of the Gunners fold that he is today.
Speaking of that particular defining moment, the 20-year-old said to the club’s official website:
“It was when I was about 14,
“I wouldn’t tip myself as one of the top players in my group back then, because I was so small and there were a lot of people who were [more] physically developed at my age and I was one of the smaller players.
“I sat down with my Dad and he said, ‘If you really want to progress then you need to start believing in yourself, believe in your ability because you have it there’. I started to watch game tapes and seeing things that i didn’t see in myself before.
“[At one point when I was younger] I was very close to being cut from Hale End. Liam Brady sat me down and said I had a lot to work on, so I just got my head down and worked hard on and off the field.
“It was my finishing at the time that made my coaches believe in me, and I had a lot of energy so I was always running up and down. I guess they saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself at the time.”
Outside of club responsibilities, Maitland-Niles has also represented England at youth level and is now a trusted U21 international, and if he can have another superb season under Unai Emery’s command, a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s senior Three Lions set-up surely won’t be too far away either.
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