Eddie Nketiah: shock release by Chelsea at 14 made me more determined | England

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Eddie Nketiah has said that the heartbreak of being rejected by Chelsea as a youngster gave him the determination to succeed at Arsenal. The striker has fought back from being released by the west London club when he was 14 and has been rewarded for his recent good form by being called up by England for the first time.

Nketiah, England’s record goalscorer at under-21 level, has risen through the ranks at Arsenal and is competing with Gabriel Jesus to be the first-choice striker. The 24-year-old has two goals from his first four appearances this season and feels that being let by go by Chelsea made him more determined.

“I think it did,” he said. “I was there from the ages of nine and 14 and it came as a shock to me because I was doing well at the time. It gives you an awakening knowing that things can change like that – that you can lose everything you have worked for.

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“It gives you that extra motivation and resilience when times are hard. I’m able to dig a level deeper than maybe some people can or don’t want to go into. It’s all part of the experience. Some boys might not have experienced it but then they will have had lows in their careers. This was my journey and it has helped me be who I am today.”

Nketiah, who could be involved when England face Ukraine on Saturday and Scotland the following Tuesday, has had to work hard to prove himself at Arsenal. He is glad that he turned down the chance to leave the club last summer and instead signed a new long-term deal.

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“There have been different opportunities and different thought processes along the way,” he said. “I have always believed that I can make it and play here. Everyone’s journey is different but this is my journey. There has always been transfer talk and speculation, but I am happy that I have taken this route and I am proud to be part of Arsenal. It feels like home to me. I’m excited for the future.”

Nketiah is known as a poacher but has worked on his all-round game. “Naturally I have always had more to my game than just goals,” he said. “When you score goals it is a really important role, but I think with the consistency and the games I have been getting, I have been allowed to showcase more sides to my game.

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“Working under a manager like Mikel [Arteta] tactically makes you so much better, you understand your role as a striker is so much more than what you have to do around the box. I think I have definitely improved.”

Nketiah remembered benefiting from working with the former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry. “Thierry has been magnificent for me,” he said. “I was coached by him as a first-year scholar at 16. It was amazing, being able to bounce ideas off him. He gave me a lot of confidence and when I see him he is still supportive and helpful.”

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