Australian Arsenal fans’ ears must have pricked up when City announced its first signing of the January transfer window, with the Club bringing fan-favourite Carl Jenkinson Down Under on loan from Nottingham Forest.
Those fans and Jenkinson share a unique bond in their shared love for the London club, with the Harlow-born defender growing up supporting the Invincibles-era Gunners lead by the eternal Arsène Wenger.
After coming up through the youth system of Charlton Athletic, it didn’t take the boyhood Arsenal fan long to get his dream move, joining the club where his passion for the game was born in 2011. Jenkinson made a total of 71 appearances for Arsenal, including 42 in the Premier League, an achievement he looks back on fondly.
“With time you can look at those situations, and for that to happen, to actually play for your boyhood club, is very rare,” he said.
“Not just play once or twice, I played a lot of football for Arsenal.
“That’s something I’ll always be immensely proud of.”
Whilst it shouldn’t come as a surprise given Wenger’s longevity at Arsenal, it still would have been incredibly special for Jenkinson to develop as a young footballer and then be able to play under the legendary French manager, whose teams the now 30-year-old had grown up supporting.
“It was an honour to play under a guy like that,” Jenkinson recounted, “He almost sees football like an art form.
“It was a massive education to play under him and he’s one of the best of all time in my opinion.”
There was one particular expression that he attributes to the Frenchman which has stuck with him to this day: ‘Do what the game demands.’
“When you receive the ball, don’t do what’s right for you, do what’s right for the team and for the game of football,” Jenkinson explained.
In making the decision to move to Australia and take up the opportunity with Melbourne City, Jenkinson did have to do what he felt was right for him. A series of unpredictable, long-term injuries had disrupted his career and cut short his time in the Premier League, and a battle for playing time at Nottingham Forest made City’s quickly arising January offer difficult to refuse.
“There was a link between the old manager and PK and it all stemmed from there,” Jenkinson explained of the move, “I was recommended as someone who could come out here and do well.”
Arriving in Melbourne and put to work almost immediately, the Premier League veteran says he’s been impressed by the quality of football, the training standards and the facilities at City, justifying his decision to make such a bold change in his career.
“I want to play football and I want to play football for a good Club, and I found both here,” he said, “I think it shows [that I want to play], as I’ve come to the other side of the world to do it.”
Making an instant impact for his new side with a late goal to seal City’s 3-1 victory over the Central Coast Mariners last month, as well as another goal in our last match against Newcastle, Jenkinson has hit the ground running in Melbourne.
The Englishman has come to Australia with a purpose, a drive to play football – his best football – and it’s Melbourne City that he believes is the best platform for him to do just that.