EMILE SMITH ROWE announced himself in the snow by brilliantly teeing up Bukayo Saka’s tap-in against West Brom.
Arsenal fans drooled over the 20-year-old’s role in their second goal during Saturday’s 4-0 demolition — including Ian Wright who was bursting with pride on Match of the Day.
Wright already had the inside track on Smith Rowe’s talents having gone to school with the whizkid’s dad, Les.
Yet the Gunners legend was not the only one watching on with a knowing smile.
Colin Omogbehin runs South London youth side Junior Elite, which counts the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Middlesbrough’s Djed Spence as alumni.
Smith Rowe joined the club as a nine-year-old and, in just a year before being poached by Arsenal, Omogbehin saw that kind of assist multiple times.
The former Crystal Palace coach, who now works in Fulham’s academy, explained: “In matches, we made him wear the No 10.
“Tens and sevens are big numbers at our club.
“The opposition, when it was seven on seven, pressed from the front.
“He just used to stand on the other side of the defenders.
FANCY A PUNT? TODAY’S BEST ODDS BOOSTS FROM THE UK’S LEADING BOOKIES
“We’d get it into him and all of a sudden he’s running at the back four — like what you’re seeing now.
“This is what separates Emile Smith Rowe from everybody else.
“Most nine-year-olds when in on goal want to shoot. But he would draw the defender and, if his mate was in a better position, just roll his mate in.
“He did it every time — but still ended up being top goalscorer!”
Smith Rowe was spotted by club president Rob Mills when helping another Sunday side thrash Junior Elite.
But he and his dad liked the Croydon club’s style of play and decided to join.
Omogbehin was wowed by Smith Rowe’s spatial awareness, touch and vision in his first session with him.
Smith Rowe had the belief to take the ball under pressure or flick it round the corner like Omogbehin had never seen before — and soon the scouts came calling.
The development guru added: “I ran to the other coach Leione Dillon and said, ‘Have you seen this boy? Have you seen what he does?’
“Em was an absolute joy to work with. So bright, so quiet, so humble. Well-grounded. Lovely mum and dad, Les and Fiona. Good people.
“The kid raised the profile of what we were doing at the club. Every man and his dog was trying to scout him.
“In that team you had Djed Spence of Middlesbrough now and Di’Shon Bernard, who is at Manchester United but on loan at Salford City.
“There were a couple of others who I took to Fulham.
“They were the beautiful team — like the Barcelona of Sunday football. Emile was main man in the No10 role.
“It was only a matter of time. You couldn’t keep that kind of player in Sunday football. We lost him to Arsenal, Di’Shon to Chelsea and Djed went to Fulham.”
Much has been made of Arsenal’s lack of creativity, with calls to reinstate Mesut Ozil and a new playmaker to be signed this January.
He showed against a big club like Chelsea he wasn’t overawed. He did an unbelievable job against N’Golo Kante
But Smith Rowe has shown he has the ability to provide that spark with eye-catching displays in helping Arsenal to three wins on the spin.
And Omogbehin reckons his former protege can fill that void for Mikel Arteta.
Smith Rowe shone in the 3-1 Boxing Day win over Chelsea — and has not looked back.
Omogbehin added: “He showed against a big club like Chelsea he wasn’t overawed. He did an unbelievable job against N’Golo Kante.
“You have to be sensible with him as he is young and needs to be managed right.
“But I think he’ll just keep showing his quality.
You were thinking, ‘If he’s doing this now, what’s he going to be doing at 19-20
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of players. I don’t say this lightly, but in terms of talent and game understanding, he is the best.
“We always earmarked him, even that young. His talent was just so evident.
“You were thinking, ‘If he’s doing this now, what’s he going to be doing at 19-20?’”
Arsenal fans are finding out right now…
⚽ Read our Arsenal live blog for the latest news from The Emirates
Source: Read Full Article