EMILE SMITH ROWE has overcome his crisis of confidence and is finally ready to make his mark at Arsenal.
The young midfielder admits he was crippled by doubt as he struggled to nail down a regular place in Mikel Arteta’s team.
But a change of attitude has sparked fresh belief in his ability and now he is determined to show that all that early promise was not just a flash in the pan.
Wednesday’s Carabao Cup win at Brentford was Smith Rowe’s first start in 499 days for Arsenal.
And though he was unable to last the full 90 minutes, he still took enough encouragement from his performance to believe that his fortunes are about to change for the better.
Last season was a virtual write-off for the frustrated 23-year-old after he was sidelined for three months by a groin operation and was then unable to force his way back into a team fighting for the Premier League title.
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But he was a key player in England’s summer triumph at the Euro Under-21 Championships and is now knocking firmly on the Arsenal door for more first team minutes.
He admits “I used to have a lot of doubts. I didn’t have a lot of confidence and I questioned myself at times.
“But I have changed my mentality and now I am just going to go for it because I really don’t have anything to lose.
“Last season was a really tough period for me, having surgery for the first time and then suffering another setback when I finally got back onto the pitch.
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“It was really challenging but the gaffer helped me through that period because he supported me through the injury and he often pulled me in for chats about how I could become mentally stronger.
“He’s told me that I have to stay patient and to keep working hard in training and there’s a lot of stuff I’ve been working on to improve.
“It’s been a long wait to get back into the team and it has been a challenge, but I’m enjoying it and now I feel happy and really fit.
“It’s definitely a relief for me and now I am going to push on from here.”
One thing which has never been in doubt has been the backing of Smith Rowe’s team-mates and the Arsenal supporters.
The loudest cheer of last week’s 4-0 Champions League win against PSV Eindhoven came when he was introduced as a second-half substitute and he says: “To hear the fans singing my name was a really proud moment for me and all my family.
“I had the whole team behind me when I was going through surgery. They all had my back and that definitely made me feel stronger.
“It’s such a talented team at Arsenal with so much quality, so I know that I have to stay patient and wait for my chance.
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“There is always going to be competition at a massive club like Arsenal and it will always be difficult to cement your place in the team.
“But I really believe in myself now. I have all the right people around me to help so I just have to keep going and I am sure my chance will come.”
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