Confidence, particularly when it comes to young players, can be a rather useful trait. One player who certainly possesses much self-belief at the moment is Arsenal striker Austin Lipman, who, having scored six goals in the whole of last season, has achieved half that tally within the past seven days.
If you were to ask several Arsenal supporters to reel off a list of the most exciting youngsters at the club you would expect them to respond with names such as Serge Gnabry, Gedion Zelalem and Chuba Akpom, but, although Lipman is not as well known in general football circles as that trio, he is now beginning to gain credit for his hard work and perseverance since joining the club as a six year old.
Having earned his first professional contract shortly after he turned 17 last September, Lipman had to be content with a place in the U18 side for much of last season whilst Akpom enjoyed a superb campaign as the regular striker for the U21s. However, this season Lipman has been much more regularly involved with the elder age-group, with the 18 year old turning in a hugely impressive performance during the goalless draw at that level against Fulham before scoring the winner with a superb strike after coming on as a substitute against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Emirates Stadium on Monday.
That goal came less than a week after he scored a sumptuous brace during the 4-1 victory over Napoli in the UEFA Youth League, and the erstwhile England U17 international certainly seems to be enjoying his football at the moment.
At present he is forming part of a new-look Arsenal U21 side that remain unbeaten after their first five games of the season. Stefan O’Connor, a centre-back, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, a winger, are two first-year scholars who have bedded into the side well, whilst defensive-midfielder Glen Kamara and left-back Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill have also adapted seamlessly to playing at a higher level.
It is perhaps easy for the youngsters to get carried away at this stage of their development where a call-up to the first-team squad for the Capital One Cup could be just around the corner. They need only glance at the subsequent careers of some of the recent Academy alumni, however, to realise that even those who were granted first-team opportunities can find it difficult to attract future employment. For all the success of some players, such as Jack Wilshere and Ashley Cole, there are many examples of individuals who struggle to make the grade in the long-term.
Goalkeeper James Shea, for example, came through the ranks at the club and made the bench for the first-team in all four senior competitions, including for the trip to Montpellier in the Champions League last season, but, after being released in the summer, has subsequently ended up at Isthmian League Division One North side Needham Market. Another case is that of Jay Simpson, the striker who scored the first ever hat-trick at Emirates Stadium in an FA Youth Cup fixture as well as a brace for the first-team in the Carling Cup. Fast-forward five years, however, and, having been released by Hull City in the summer, the 24-year-old signed for Buriram United in Thailand last week.
Any of the youngsters in the current set-up who feel that succeeding in football will be an easy ride need only look at the fate of Shea and Simpson to realise that it can fall apart all too quickly.
Photo by Kieran Clarke.