Arsenal and England’s Carl Jenkinson cannot wait to feature in his first FA Cup final — where he will be cheered on by a new army of Bury fans.
The England Under-21 full-back gave four youth football teams — Bury, Guildhall Feoffment, Elsmwell and Mildenhall — a day they will never forget when he appeared at Drive Vauxhall in Cotton Lane, Bury, to hand out new kits on Tuesday.
Fresh from scoring his first senior goal in Sunday’s 2-0 win in Norfolk, which saw Norwich City relegated, Jenkinson has staked his claim for a starting place in Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal team to face Hull City at Wembley on Saturday (3pm).
“It will be my first FA Cup final I will be involved in and it is very exciting,” he said. “Of course no-one wants to lose, but we will be going there with confidence, we have played very well in the last few games and there is no reason why we won’t win.”
The 22-year-old, who earned his only England cap to date in a friendly in Sweden in November 2012, backed Roy Hodgson’s decision to pick 18-year-old Luke Shaw ahead of Ashley Cole in a youthful-looking World Cup squad.
“I have trained and played with Luke quite a few times with the England Under-21s and he is a fantastic player,” he said. “He has a lot of ability and he is a very mature head on young shoulders as well.”
Jenkinson — who spent time signing autographs and posing for pictures in Bury as well as answering questions from the Year 5 and 6 pupils, which also formed part of a celebration of the Suffolk WAYS league — has backed England to make it through the group stages in Brazil next month, feeling less expectation could work in their favour.
“I think if you look at our squad we have a lot of very good players who play in one of the best, if not the best, league in the world, so we have the talent in the squad,” he added. “Hopefully we can go there and do well – I am optimistic.”
*Jenkinson presented the teams with their kit on behalf of the Vauxhall Youth Programme.
Carl Jenkinson has praised the Suffolk WAYS league partnership, which has seen a Bury-based league bridging the gap between school and club football.
The under-10s seven-a-side league, set-up through a link-up between King Edward VI Upper School (KEGS) in Bury and Suffolk Football Association, was launched in October last year and is set to expand to incorporate a new under-11s nine-a-side league next season.
“It is good as it is a unique league for a specific age group and a specific purpose,” said Arsenal and England Under-21s’ Jenkinson. “It is brilliant, as any league that is encouraging youngsters to play football is fantastic and this league gets children of that age playing and keeps them going.”
The deputy head at KEGS, Rob Walden, said Jenkinson’s visit to hand out kits at Drive Vauaxhall had been inspirational.
Freddie Bayliss, 11, a Howard Middle School pupil who plays for Haughley United, said it had been ‘amazing’ to meet one of his heroes and have his Arsenal shirt signed.
Jenksinon said of his visit: “I have really enjoyed it.
“The kids have all been fantastic and they are all just lovely kids who love their football and it has been a real pleasure to come down.”