Carl Jenkinson: the more I ponder his position as a player for the Arsenal, the more I grow to admire him. Not position as in right-back, you understand. No, his position as a 19-year-old footballer who only last season was propping up a part-time, non-league outfit on freezing nights in front of a handful of fans.
How easy it would have been for Jenkinson, as he turned out for both Welling and Eastbourne Borough on loan from Charlton, to consider thowing in the towel on his hopes and ambition of playing at the highest level. As he showered after another uninspiring game on yet another awful pitch, surely he could have never imagined that but a few month later he would not only be playing in the Premier League but doing so in the colours of his boyhood idols. The Arsenal. The same Arsenal his Dad has followed for 40 years. The same Arsenal in whom all of his family have carried on a love affair for decades.
Yet here he is an Arsenal player. And an honest Arsenal player at that. Yes, like many of you, I had massive misgivings about his signing and his ability and aptitude early on in his spell with the club. Yes, he had some wobbly moments, none more so than the 8-2 defeat at Manchester United where he looked out of his depth and, ultimately, got his marching orders.
But, again, he seems to have used this as part of his education. His resolve has redoubled and the adversity of that embarrassment has somehow galvanised him. He could have easily crumbled. He could have legitimately googled Dignitas. Okay, that’s taken things too far but you get my drift. But to his undying (geddit?) credit he refused to climb into his shell and settle for a life in the reserves picking up his money happy simply to be in and around players who until recently were to some degree his idols.
Admittedly his position has been helped by the unfortuinate injury to Bacary Sagna at the Riot Direct Stadium. He has played more frequently than he and even Arsene Wenger would have imagined. And, again, this twist of fate only adds to his remarkable story. On the subject of AW, he must take some credit for the purchase of the boy who qualifies to play for both Finland and England (he has represented both at teen level) as his Mum is a native of the former. We should never be surprised by his astuteness. Jenkinson arrived at the Emirates from the Valley for £1m after just eight first team games for the team with more nicknames than most (Valiants, Latics, Robins, Addicks).
So back to my admiration for Jenko, as I shall call him from now on. In him I see honesty, integrity and endeavour. No whining, moaning and whingeing about his contract, his future, his team-mates. No backstabbing, no agenda, no do-you-know-who-I-am attitude. He is refreshingly wholesome and cheering him on from the stands is much more enjoyable and pricipled as opposed to, say, backing, oh, I don’t know, Samir Nasri.
We are told (via Jules Wheeler @TheRealGunner) that he is the fittest player at the club. That alone is astonishing considering that Jenko is competing against and alongside some seasoned international superstars for that plaudit.
Is he good enough to cut the mustard long-term? Who knows. And here is the rub – I don’t care, frankly. I reserve the right to be proud to see him wearing the shirt with similar pride. He loves the club as much as I do. As much as you do. As much as Rocky did, God rest his soul. Jenko is Arsenal family. And if he kisses the badge, you know he means it.