Striker Benik Afobe has revealed his delight at completing his season-long loan move to Bolton Wanderers from Arsenal and is relishing the opportunity to further develop his career at the Reebok.
The 19-year-old admits it was a no-brainer to move to the North West after being informed the Trotters were interested in securing his services, and is very much looking forward to working with manager Owen Coyle over the next year.
“The manager spoke to me at Arsenal and told me that Bolton was interested in me. Once he told me that, my mind was already made up,” he said.
“Arsene Wenger said to me that he wanted me to go out on loan and learn, play week in and week out, and help a very good team win promotion back to the Premier League.
“When I met Owen Coyle for the first time, he reaffirmed what Arsene Wenger had said to me. As I say, my mind was already made up, but having spoken to the manager and the chairman here, it only reinforced in my mind that this is the right place for me to be at this stage of my career and I am extremely happy to be here.
“The manager said to me that he likes to give young players a chance because they’re hungry and they have a point to prove. Those words have stuck in my head since and when I get my chance hopefully I can take full advantage of it.”
As Wanderers supporters are aware, Afobe is not the first player to switch the Emirates for the Reebok on a loan deal, with Jack Wilshere and most recently Ryo Miyaichi both enjoying successful spells at the club.
Wilshere became a first team regular and fan favourite in the 2009/10 season- establishing himself as an integral member of the Arsenal setup and earning his first senior England call-up the following season.
And young Japanese forward Miyaichi also impressed and featured heavily under Owen Coyle throughout the second half of last season having joined the club in January until the end of the season.
Afobe admits that looking back at Wilshere and Miyaichi having successful spells at the club strengthened his view that Bolton is the right club with which to further develop as a player, and is happy with what he has heard from his Arsenal counterparts so far.
“Jack is one of my closer friends in life. He told me that the move will be a good experience for me, that it will mature me not just as a footballer but also as a person because I will be living far away from home,” he said.
“I am going to be living alone and I am going to have to become a man now, on and off the pitch. Living alone, cooking, being disciplined - I am positive I can deal with that and it will not be a problem for me.
“The opportunity ahead excites me because it is something I have always dreamed of - becoming a professional footballer and playing at the highest level.
“Obviously, I have spoken to Ryo about the move also and I am really pleased with what the two have told me. They enjoyed themselves here and talk about the club in high regard. I am very much looking forward to it and hopefully it will be a good season for us.
“Of course, I want to play as much as much as I can, put in good performances and score goals, but it is important to remember that football is a team sport and not just about one player,” he insisted.
“I have come here to develop my game and gain more experience. In doing so, hopefully I will return to Arsenal a much better, more experienced player.”
Afobe, who has represented England regularly at junior level, already has experience not only playing in the Championship, but also winning the division having spent the end of last season on loan at Reading.
“The experience was really good. Brian McDermott and all the players and staff at the club were fantastic and they made feel very welcome,” he said.
“The experience of winning this league and being involved in the celebrations was an absolutely fantastic feeling- probably one of the best feelings I’ve had so far in my young career.
“That is something I would like to do again, celebrating promotion to the Premier League, and hopefully come May we will be doing just that.”
“Looking at the squad and the pedigree within, there is no doubt we can do just that,” he added.
“I have been watching Bolton for years and it is a fantastic club. I honestly think we have got the players here that can take us straight back to the top flight.”
Despite being only 19-years-old, Afobe arrives at the Reebok with an impressive CV and has had no hesitations in telling the supporters what to expect from his this season.
He said: “Obviously, I am a striker, but I work very hard for the team. I like to run in behind, I have quite good movement and I will try to score as many goals as I can to help the team earn promotion back to the Premier League.”
Clearly, Afobe is very ambitious and eager for the new season to begin. He will wear the number 17 shirt for Wanderers, and added: “It’s a nice number. I wore it for the England Under-19s and I scored 2 goals in three games so hopefully that number will bring me luck here.”