“It’s in your blood son – The rise and rise of Carl Jenkinson”

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By Gavin Milligan 
On the 8th of February 1992; Wet Wet Wet were murdering our ears with the abomination known as “Goodnight Girl” at number 1 in the UK charts. The 16th Winter Olympics opened in Albertville, France and on that day Gooners celebrated a hard fought away win at Notts County courtesy of a solitary strike by Alan Smith. One particular Gooner family had something, perhaps, more momentous to celebrate. In Harlow, Essex the Jenkinson clan welcomed baby Carl into the world, thus began the sort of life journey that every football fan fantasizes about. 
We’ve all been there, I know I always have and still do dream of pulling on that famous red and white jersey. Who knows, maybe I’ll get spotted by Steve Rowley next weekend when I score another hat trick for the Dog and Duck Sunday team, you’ve got to keep the dream alive haven’t you?! 
I fear a heavy sigh and a return to reality is in order, so back to Jenko. His father is a dyed in the wool Arsenal fan and rightly so Carl followed suit. Eventually a young Jenkinson began playing for Charlton Athletic, rising through the ranks of their youth system. Jenkinson actually revealed in his first interview for the Arsenal website that he was in fact watched by Arsenal at an early age but nothing came of it. As an Addicks youngster he represented both England and Finland at youth level due to the Finnish heritage of his mother. In 2010 he had two loan stints with non-league clubs Eastbourne Borough and Welling United respectively. He eventually made his debut for Charlton; putting in some encouraging performances that left many of the fans at the Valley with a feeling they had a player of real potential and quality. However, his progress in the first team was curtailed as it became apparent he would leave and he found himself out of the side. 
Fast forward to the hazy summer days of summer 2011 (I say hazy but we all know it was probably lashing it down). With Gunners fans everywhere fretting over the futures of Fabregas and Nasri, all the while wondering who would be coming in. The first signing of the transfer window by Arsene Wenger was a seemingly curious one.
Arsenal kicked off their transfer dealings by spending £1,000,000 (subject to add-ons) on a player who had spent most of his senior career playing for teams outside of the football league. The bad mood stemming from the previous season and the ominous threat of major departures sent a large number of Gooners into meltdown. Twitter was a war zone. Some bloggers wrote him off before they had even seen him kick a ball. Fans were again wondering why the manager was spending money on unknown players, especially an unknown quantity such as this. It was seen by many as further evidence of a club in decline.
Somewhere amongst all the bile and doom mongering one of those wonderful tales that football can sometimes weave, had been written at Arsenal. How many times have you stood there, kicking every ball, cursing the players for their lack of effort whilst thinking how much you would sacrifice to be able to get the chance to put your passion, desire and will to win on the line for the club you love?
As Carl Jenkinson put pen to paper on his Arsenal deal and was unveiled as an AFC player he fulfilled a lifelong dream, to play for his boyhood club. In itself it was a fairy story, but football is not all about sentimentality, you have to be able to walk the walk so to speak. There were encouraging signs early on as Thomas Vermaelen spoke of how impressed he was at Carl’s fitness levels, as Jenko apparently topped an early pre-season bleep test.
Carl’s debut season was a mixed bag, a horrendously unfortunate own goal against FC Koln in a friendly led to more derision. With Sagna unavailable he was thrown in at the deep end, and there followed some early nervous performances that led some to draw the conclusion that he was way out of his depth. If there was one thing that stood out during that time was Carl’s effort and determination. His performances began to improve. Supremely fit, agile and quick up the wing, with notable crossing ability there were signs of a talent that could be polished. He turned in a top performance against West Brom before a stress fracture of the back ruled him out for 3 months. He returned as a substitute in our now famous 5-2 demolition of Spurs. What a moment for a lad who had watched North London derbies from the stands. 
Coming into this season, with Sagna out again, Jenkinson has had a decent run of games. He has grown more or less in every game. There were still nervous moments, a string of misplaced passes against Liverpool for example. However he had proved himself to be a genuine understudy for our first choice right back. He no longer looks like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights, more a genuine player of promise learning his trade at a top club. With Bacary now on the cusp of a return it looks as if he may have to take a step back to the bench.
Carl Jenkinson is by no means the finished article, but as he grows in stature and improves game by game, his stock is rising. So much so that he recently trained with England and has since pledged his allegiance to the Three Lions. A friendly call up against Sweden would appear to be almost inevitable.
Anyone who has been lucky enough to meet our very own Charlie George would testify to his boundless enthusiasm and love for the club. He is adored by the fans because he is genuinely one of us. Carl has that same, priceless, Arsenal supporters blood coursing through his veins. Any pretender can kiss a badge, or say that they love a club, we’ve seen it all before from clowns like Adebayor. Not any player can say they have stood where we stand, shoulder to shoulder in the North Bank or the Clock End signing our hearts out, supporting the club we genuinely worship. Carl Jenkinson can, and if he keeps on improving, keeps a level head and the breaks go his way we could be looking at a genuine Arsenal hero of the future.
Any player can grow to love our club, not many can say they were born with the love of the family around them. Our family, the Arsenal family. 
Follow me on twitter @gav_afc
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