The first batch of Arsenal youngsters returned to London Colney this week in preparation for the new campaign, and James Hillson was among them.
Hillson, an 18 year old goalkeeper, joined Arsenal on loan from Reading towards the end of last season to provide cover for the injured Karl Hein.
Although he didn’t play a league game for the Gunners at youth level last campaign, Hillson featured in the Dallas Cup, while he also made the bench for the U23s and the U18s in addition to training with the first-team on several occasions.
Hillson was released by Reading at the end of last season but the fact that he was back at the Arsenal training ground indicates that a permanent deal is in the offing, even though this has yet to be confirmed.
If he does end up signing for Arsenal then Hillson will still be able to feature for the U18s as an overage player in addition to being part of the U23 setup.
However, there is much competition for places in the goalkeeping department at youth level.
Deyan Iliev (who could be promoted to the first-team), Matt Macey and Arthur Okonkwo will all be battling for a starting berth for the U23s.
Meanwhile, Hein, Tom Smith, Hubert Graczyk and Ovie Ejeheri are in contention for the U18s, meaning Hillson isn’t necessarily guaranteed playing time.
However, if he continues to impress in training then chances will surely come Hillson’s way eventually, and he will be determined to seize his opportunity.
Arsenal face Boreham Wood next weekend in their opening youth pre-season friendly, and Hillson is in contention to feature in that fixture.