MX23RW : Monday, January 21 00:22:31

Dad's the word for Arsenal starlet Joe Willock

Dad's the word for Arsenal starlet Joe Willock
© Reuters
Willock's older brothers Chris and Matty are also professional footballers.

Arsenal boss Unai Emery was full of praise for Joe Willock's performance against Blackpool but the teenager was reserving judgement until he had heard from an even more important figure – his dad Charles.

Willock marked his third senior appearance of the season with the first two goals in a 3-0 FA Cup success against Blackpool, adding to the goal he scored earlier in the campaign in the Europa League clash with Vorskla Poltava.

The 19-year-old has also been a regular presence on the bench in the Premier League in recent weeks and is helping to fulfil a remarkable family dream.

Arsenal's Joe Willock (right) celebrates
Arsenal's Joe Willock (right) celebrates (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Willock's two brothers, 22-year-old Matty and 20-year-old Chris, are also professional players with high-profile clubs – Matty at Manchester United and Chris with Benfica.

Willock's parents gave up their jobs to concentrate on their sons' burgeoning football careers, with Charles the driving force.

"My dad has just been football crazy since we were very young," said Willock. "He used to take us to the park before training and after training. It has been hard work.

"Growing up he was the only person I ever cared about commenting on one of my matches. I will go home now and if he has said I've played bad I don't really listen to anyone else except my dad because he has always guided me in the right way.

"He has kicked every ball and always been watching me and us. He is very proud that all the hard work and sacrifices are paying off. I am just trying to repay them every day."

The brothers all began at Arsenal but Matty was released aged 15 while Chris left in 2017 and headed to Portugal. Neither has yet made a first-team breakthrough although, like Joe, Chris has been a regular in the England age groups.

All three appeared on the same pitch in May 2017 when Manchester United played a reserve game against Arsenal.

Joe said: "It's a friendly rivalry. Obviously we all want each other to do well. We're always pushing each other on. When we were younger we had a dream together and we are just trying to fulfil it.

Brother Matt has been on loan at St Mirren from Manchester United
Brother Matt has been on loan at St Mirren from Manchester United (Graham Stuart/PA)

"Sometimes you have to go abroad to get a chance, sometimes you have to go up north. My brother can give us some experience from Portugal – he's been alone a few times – and he can give me experience from that aspect so gathering all that experience as a younger brother is always good."

Judging by his progress over the last couple of seasons, Willock may well turn out to have the most prominent career of the trio.

After 11 first-team appearances last season – including a chastening FA Cup debut in defeat by Nottingham Forest – Willock has emerged as a real goalscoring threat at first-team and under-21 level this campaign.

"It was one of my aims at the start of the season to push on and try to get in the box more and get a few more goals and help the team to victory so all the hard work is paying off," he said.

"It is going well for me. Hopefully I'm showing what I can do when I get the opportunities. Obviously I have always wanted play more in the Premier League and stuff so I am just being patient."

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Alex Iwobi in action for Arsenal on January 1, 2019
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