Arsenal starlet Bukayo Saka: I’m blessed to have made my Premier League debut
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New Year’s Day 2019, at around 4.42pm to be precise, will always have a special place in Bukayo Saka’s heart.
For that was the time and date the 17-year-old of Nigerian descent strode on to the hallowed Emirates turf and in the process make his Premier Leauge debut in the 83rd minute of the 4-1 victory over Fulham.
The London-born talented teenager joined Hale End graduates Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah in making his top flight bow over the last 12 months, while also becoming the first player born in 2001 to play at that level.
While Unai Emery’s first team continue to progress in their bid to seal Champions League qualification the next generation of talent in North London is begining to shine.
Players with Freddie Ljungberg’s U23s – and the U21 side he led during this season’s Checkatrade Trophy – as well as Ken Gillard’s U18s, have impressed academy chief Per Mertesacker.
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And none more so than Saka.
Bukayo replaced Alex Iwobi against the Cottagers to add to his two appearances in the Europa League late last year.
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“Right now I’m feeling so happy,” he said after the match. “I feel blessed to have made my debut and get minutes on the pitch. I just want to thank my family, my friends and everyone at the club who’s helped me to get to this stage.
“It’s been a tough stage, a long stage, but through hard work and determination I managed to get here.
“I’m not stopping now. I’m very hungry. I just want to work hard with every chance I get. In training I just want to impress the coach so I can get back on the pitch.”
With the Islington Gazette tracking Saka’s progress while covering the Arsenal U18s, U21s and U23s it is plain to see just how popular the youngster is.
It’s not hard to note when his main priority after the match ended was to give his matchworn shirt to his parents.
He added with a smile: “I think I’ll give it to my mum and dad – but I think they’ll probably frame it and give it back to me.” Bukayo told Arsenal.com. “That’s what I think I’m going to do with it.