“I look at the picture of when I came on for Mesut Ozil literally every day”
By Alfie Cairns Culshaw (Chief Editor)
It’s not often that small bloggers or aspiring journalists like myself and Daniel Finton get the luxury of talking to a professional football player. So when the opportunity to interview former Arsenal player and Hale End academy graduate Charlie Gilmour arose, we snatched at it immediately.
Sending a speculative direct message on Instagram to the Scottish under-19 international was met with a response just half an hour later, and half an hour after that, we’d arranged a 40-minute interview for ‘The Arsenal Cannon Podcast Episode 40’. The humbleness of the young midfielder was nice to see, and how willing and open he was to share his career story thus far with us was, not only great from our investigative journalistic mindsets, but also on a personal note, quite refreshing.
After enduring some technical difficulties, and Daniel’s intro, the conversation got under way. First we learnt of his teammates at Arsenal, of how Eddie Nketiah bangs out football manager and is bound to become his generation’s Pep Guardiola, how Joe Willock is always happy and witnessed Charlie admitting to having the worst fashion sense in the entire Arsenal squad (another sign of his comforting humility).
After learning about his teammates, we learnt about him. Joining the club at just six years old after being scouted at a youth match, Charlie began his long Arsenal journey towards making it as a professional. At aged 12, the Brighton born Scotsman moved to London to relieve the stresses of having to travel 65 miles three times a week, residing with a bunch of strangers in close proximity to the Hale End training complex.
“The travelling got too much, so I went into a thing called DIGS”, he explained. “It’s basically just another family that you go and live with that you’ve never met before. You make a relationship with them and stay there. It got serious from there, obviously you don’t see your family every day and you only go home on the weekends. The commitments were difficult, and every year it got tougher and tougher.”
Despite these practical inconveniences, Gilmour’s determination and drive to make it remained unhinged, “at the end of the day, your aim is just to make it as a footballer.”
“I have dreams and I do my best to achieve them. Going through the age groups, year on year, you start thinking, ‘I’m getting closer’. Obviously though, you have to take it step by step. I don’t really think too far ahead. I don’t think 5-10 years, I think 1, maybe 2 years’ max, and then keep building and progressing, onto the next step and see where that takes me.”
Gilmour ascended swiftly through the academy, breaking into the under-23s squad in 2016 and later training with the first team. He became a staple of Freddie Ljungberg’s under-23 side in the 2018-19 season, and had nothing but praise for the Swede when asked about him.
“Freddie was so good to me- I still keep in contact with him now. As a coach he was superb, he manages you so well as a person and as a player. He’s very approachable, which I feel is key as a manager, and will always try and improve your game.”
When we asked if he had a bright future as a coach, he responded emphatically “I’m very confident he does.” This, more evidence of how positive an impact and how big a role Ljungberg played in developing and nurturing this current crop of young players coming through. Exciting news for many Arsenal fans.
Gilmour went onto speak at length about his first team breakthrough, and demonstrated impressive self-awareness around his game, stating that he needs to learn to play in teams that don’t dominate possession, which was one of the factors for declaring for Scotland over England. He also spoke openly about making his debut for the Arsenal first team, describing it perhaps clichély, but whole-heartedly, as “a dream come true.”
In fact, one of my personal favourite quotes from the interview came from this segment, when he said “I look at the picture of when I came on for Mesut Ozil literally every day.” Very pure and very genuine- something all Arsenal fans wish they could say.
One area he was slightly coy on was the subject of former Arsenal head coach Unai Emery. When describing the Spaniard, he emphasised how grateful he was that he had given him his first team opportunities, and said he loved his passion for the game, but was hesitant when asked about possible communication issues with the former coach. Perhaps this is the sort of response you’d expect from a young player when asked about the coach who gave him his first taste of professional football.
Gilmour is now at Norwich, and has spent this season on loan at Dutch side Telstar. He’s looking ahead to the next campaign, as he hopes to forge a way into the East Anglian side’s first team.
“I want to get back fit, have a good pre-season with Norwich and see where that takes me. I want to get a chance to impress the manager (Daniel Farke), and hopefully I can break into the first team next season. That’s the plan.”
A great interview with a down to earth, and likeable young player. His commitment, humbleness and drive to succeed were very evident to us, and should put him in good stead to have a successful career.
For the full-length 40-minute chat, go to Spotify, Itunes or just use the link on this website to listen to the episode. He revealed a lot more, with plenty of insight into the club and all that, so go give it a listen. Cheers.