Folarin Balogun says he’s ‘enjoying every minute’ of his loan spell with Middlesbrough, especially as the Championship side’s FA Cup run has afforded him several opportunities against Premier League opposition.
Balogun moved to the Riverside in January to gain more experience of senior football and, after an understated start, has come to the fore in recent weeks.
Two goals in three games, the latest a fine finish at Birmingham City (see below), has seen the England under-21 international stake his claim for a starting berth against Chelsea this weekend.
Off the back of wins over Manchester United and Sp*rs, Chris Wilder’s side are challenging for a first FA Cup semi-final since 2006.
Goal. Balogun. What a finish. Get in. 2-0. pic.twitter.com/8K71b11uee
— Canadian Boro Fans (@boro_games) March 15, 2022
“It’s my first loan spell. It’s obviously very different to how I grew up in the academy at Arsenal but I’m enjoying every minute of it,” Balogun told BBC Radio Tees.
“There is just so many things that I wasn’t aware of. I wasn’t in the environment to learn, as in playing men’s football, so I think now that I have that opportunity I am just trying to absorb as much as I can.”
He added: “My first start was at Manchester United in the FA Cup so you can’t really ask for more in terms of a stage to play on. Then we had Tottenham at Teesside, we obviously got the result there.
“Then we’ve got Chelsea this Saturday so that is obviously great that I am able to still play against these teams on my loan spell this deep into the season and with the league games as well. So it’s really good.”
Having signed a new long-term deal with the club last year, Balogun is expected to be part of Arsenal’s first team squad next season. It remains to be seen how much responsibility he’s given; much will depend on the futures of Alex Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah and what any new arrivals bring to the table.
In the meantime, we look forward to watching him against Thomas Tuchels bus boys.