Introducing PUMA’s Next Generation

Photography: Elliot Huntley / Interview & Words: Tom Everest
6th July 2019

To celebrate the launch of the new PUMA ‘Anthem’ pack we linked up with four of England’s brightest talents to discuss a whole host of things; from football dreams, debuts and new boots to pre-match superstitions, dressing room DJs and their own creative escapes. So, here’s an introduction to four names that you’ll be hearing a lot more of over the next 12 months.

 

The leader of a new generation. The captain of the World Cup winning England U17 team and one of the most naturally gifted defenders at Premier League champions’ Manchester City, Joel Latibeaudiere has been described as ‘the next Kompany.’ After an unforgettable 2017, Joel spent a lot of the last campaign on the sidelines which prevented him from being a regular fixture in the Man City first team. Not that it has dampened his dreams or drive. To capture his rise, and to see what he has in store for next season, we sat down with the City and England skipper to find out more about a defender who is on the brink of the big time. 

Joel Latibeaudiere

My first football memory is playing in the back garden with my Dad. He was never really a footballer – he was just massively into sport – but we had a proper set up in the garden. Plastic goals; plastic balls – it was the perfect pitch.

 

I was born in Doncaster but was picked up by Leeds United when I was really young and I played there until I was 12 and then I signed for Man City. That’s when I made the big move. I left home, left my family, at the age of 13 and I’ve been at City ever since. I saw my family as much as I could – mostly at weekends – but it was never easy. I think it took a good six or seven months to really settle down. I still live in the same digs, just outside of Manchester, so it certainly feels like home now.

 

My first football hero was Ronaldinho. I always had all of his Brazil tops and all of his Barcelona tops growing up as a kid. The way he played and enjoyed the game was just on another level to anyone else.

 

The club I supported as a boy was Liverpool. My dad is originally Jamaican, so when he first moved to the country his dad – so my Grandad – got work on the docks up in Liverpool. So, I inherited that little bit of love as a kid for Liverpool from him.

 

The toughest opponent I’ve faced in my career so far is Tyrese Campbell at Stoke City. He’s up there, for sure. A massive up and coming talent. Big, strong, fast. If you give him half a hard he’ll be sure to take it round you and stick it in the back of the net. Rhian Brewster at Liverpool needs a mention, too. He’s a big name but he’s got the game to back it up. 

 

My favourite kit of all-time has got to be the Barcelona kits from back in the day. Again, from the time of Ronaldinho, just the classic stripes with the no sponsor. It has a timeless look.

 

My perfect central defensive partner would be Vincent Kopmany or Giorgio Chiellini. Proper no nonsense defenders who will attack anything and would complement the way I like to play it out from the back a bit more.

 

The one thing I’d change about modern football is how soft it is. Back in the day you could put a tackle in and nowadays sometimes perfectly good challenges are penalised for not being fair. I miss that side of the game. 

 

The one thing everyone should know about me is that I always remember where I am from. Although I’ve been in Manchester for quite some time now I’m always going to be a Doncaster boy, a Yorkshire boy. That’ll never change.

 

Outside of football my biggest passion is golf. When I was 14 I got my handicap down to 13; so this summer I’m going to try and get out there a lot more to get my handicap down to those levels again. There’s quite a few golfers at City, Connor Rosler, Ed Francis who is now at Wolves, he plays a lot of golf too.

 

The biggest ‘pinch-me’ moment of my career came when I lifted the World Cup. That was a real moment. A crazy, surreal moment that I will never forget. As a footballer, you can’t give yourself much time to reflect on those moments; I’m always looking ahead as to what my next challenge is. But, whenever I do go home, I still have the medal on the mantlepiece. I have the boots I wore in the final, I have the armband – all of it. So, sometimes, I got through all of the pictures and take the time to remember it.

 

The moment I knew we could win the World Cup was when pulled the first goal back in the final. Although we were 2-0 down at the time I just knew the moment we pulled one back we’d win. I just knew. We went in the changing room, we saw the Spanish players walking in and they looked like they thought they had the game wrapped up, but we knew. We got in the changing room, the manager allowed us to do our own thing. We organised our own thing, the manager was like ‘right, let’s go get it.’ That was it. We had some big voices and personalities in that dressing room. People like Angel Gomes and Morgan Gibbs-White – all great characters that inspired us to turn it around.

 

The biggest strengths of my game are my aggression and my leadership. When I’m on the pitch all of my players know how much I’m going to put in and how much I expect of them. If something isn’t going right they know I’m going to speak up to change things. I’ve always been a leader, even at the lower age groups I always wanted to be a help to people. I think being a captain brings the best out of me. 

The player who impresses most in Man City training is David Silva. He knows everything before it even happens. You try and read him and he’s always one, two, three steps ahead. Plus, he’s so agile, so you can’t get near him.

 

Being at Manchester City is a dream. When I first joined the club the youth teams trained at a different place to the first team so we never saw them day-to-day. Now, it’s all changed. We have the magnificent complex where everyone is together, interacting and learning from each other. We have the best manager in the world, the club is winning trophy after trophy – so being inside it all and watching it change over the last few years has been incredible. When you get the opportunity to train with the first team it’s just so surreal. Watching how they train, see how they prepare, what the vibe is like, it gives you a massive boost.

 

Two years ago I was in the squad for a Champions League tie against Shakhtar Donetsk and I was in the stands sat next to Vincent Kompany. Throughout the whole game he was talking to me; giving me these invaluable lessons. Talking me through how he sees the game, telling me things that would happen before they actually happened, showing me how to react in certain situations. It was crazy. All of the players at the club are incredibly helpful. Joleon Lescott is still around the club – he looks after all the loan players – so there’ s a lot of centre halves to learn from.

 

The hardest part of football is the injuries. Especially, after missing a lot of last year. The hardest part is watching your team mates go out and play and you can’t do anything about it. They all go out for training and you’re left in the physio room. Although, now I know I’ve got the mental strength to deal with injuries a lot better. My motivation is through the roof at the minute. I just can’t wait to get out there again and to prove myself.

Nya Kirby

Another member of England’s U17 World Cup winning squad in 2017, 19-year-old Nya Kirby is on the cusp of a big breakthrough. After a successful loan period at Blackpool in League One last year – his first proper taste of first team football – Nya looks set to stake a claim to a first team spot in Crystal Palace’ midfield. To mark what is likely to be a season of firsts for the dynamic midfielder, we asked Nya a series of quick-fire questions that all start with ‘the first’, from the first game he remembers to the first time he was given genuinely great advice… 

 

The first time I realised I wanted to be a footballer was when I was three years old. I remember it so vividly, my Dad gave me a tennis ball to play with and I just never stopped. I still have the very same tennis ball to this day. It’s not in good condition nowadays but it stays within a little box in my room.

 

The first time I realised that being a footballer could be a reality was when I signed for Tottenham when I was 9 years old. That was when I knew there was a path for me, that I knew I could make it. I’ve never looked back.

 

On this journey, the first time I was given genuinely great advice was from my Dad. It’s something so simple but something I always refer to. He always said just go out there and ‘enjoy it.’ When you’re enjoying football it is when you’re going to be at your best, so I now I always just enjoy every second of it.

 

The first time I felt like I made a difference was when I signed my first pro contract and really making my family feel proud. It made all of the years of hard work from everyone in the family worthwhile.

The first time football took me out of my comfort zone was the first time I went on tour. The first time away from parents was at Under 12 level. I think we went to Vienna, I cant even really remember where we went, but I  just remember that was the first time I really experienced the world without my parents. Travelling on my own, packing on my own. It was a fast learning experience.

 

The first thing I bought with my first pay check in football was a dog. A beautiful Hungarian Vizsla called Flo.

 

The first game of football I remember was watching my Dad play football at Hackney Marshes at around 11 years old. He scored an overhead kick and I will never forget it. Although, he doesn’t let me forget it either. I think I must have caught him on a good day.

 

The first thing I think of when I look back on winning the World Cup is that penalty. It was a massive moment for me and the team. We practised penalties a lot in training so stepping up I knew exactly where I was going to put it. But, when it goes post-and-in it feels even better.

 

My first football hero was Ronaldinho. The way he played the game was so infectious; the skills he had were insane and he was always smiling throughout it all.

The first time I felt starstruck was when I met Pele. That was a madness. It was just at a random event that I got invited to where he was doing a speech and his words were captivating. I got to meet him afterwards and that was special. What he’s done for football is on another level to anyone else. When you speak to him he just has this special aura about him that not many people have.

 

The first thing I think of when I look back to my time at Blackpool  is progress. It was a great time. The style of football is completely different and I was living on my own up there, but I remember on the very first day of training all of the pitches were frozen, it was so cold! So, we all trained on a 7-a-side pitch, all 22 players. But it was just great. Being at Blackpool taught me a lot of things, including just how important 3 points every Saturday is. The passion, what it means to both the fans and players, is an incredible thing to be a part of.

 

The first thing I’d do if I was Prime Minister would be to put loads of 5-a-side pitches around the country. Making the game more accessible to the next generation is incredibly important. If you look at the successes of all England age groups right now, it’s important to keep the momentum going.

Sam Greenwood

Signed from Sunderland and now a Premier League 2 South winner for Arsenal, Sam Greenwood is built from the mould of an old-fashioned centre forward and he is tearing up the age groups for the North London club. Just look at his highlight reel against Chelsea if you don’t believe us. That quick turn and dummy on the half way line is enough to warrant the dubstep treatment of any of your most-popular YouTube highlight videos. 

 

What was your first footballing memory?

 

My very first memory is just playing in the park with my old man. He was a decent player himself and he always took me up to the park to play everyday without fail. My first memory of a proper game was when I signed for Sunderland and my first game was against Newcastle Under 8’s. I scored a free-kick that game too. The rivalry was insane, though. Even though it was under 8’s, the rivalry was intense, even between the parents. From a very young age everyone knows the importance of those games to both clubs – it’s a very special environment to grow up in. 

 

Who was your footballing hero?

 

Robin Van Persie. The way he played, the way lead the line was so classy. One of the best finishers to ever play in the Premier League, too. He had it all.

 

How was the journey of you getting picked up by Arsenal? 

 

One day my agent told me that Arsenal was interested and I never looked back. I wanted the challenge, I wanted to experience something new. I felt like I was getting a little bit too comfortable at Sunderland because I’d been there since I was 6, so the opportunity to test myself in a new environment and a new team was too big to turn down.

You’re taking the traditional football route, moving from Sunderland down to London and living in digs, how are you finding the transition? 

 

I found it easy to settle in, in all honesty. I found my confidence on the pitch right away and that made everything else a lot easier. I’d say the hardest part is meeting new people. Especially as a northern boy in and around London, I missed the banter a little bit with my friends at home. The banter is different down here, I needed to learn and pick up a few slang words along the way, but I’m getting there.

 

What’s surprised you the most about making the move to Arsenal? 

 

The change of lifestyle, Arsenal cover every little last detail on and off the pitch. That’s from gym, to nutrition and all the smaller details to give you every single chance to succeed. For instance, every morning at the training ground we have all our nutrition checks, hydration checks, and it’s comforting. Once you feel good and know you’re doing everything right you can just concentrate on the game which is the main thing.

 

You’ve been described as a proper number 9, but what do you consider to be your biggest strengths in your game? 

 

Finishing and movement. That’s what I’m most confident in. I’m pretty good at dribbling but finishing is the biggest asset to my game. 

What modern day Premier League player would you most associate your style of play with? 

 

I’d say Sergio Aguero. Although, I do like to drop a little bit deeper than he usually would, there’s similarities in terms of movement in and around the box. The fact that he’s already ready for a finish.

 

What does success mean to you? What are your ambitions for the 2019/2020 season? 

 

Last year we won the league so we definitely want to repeat that. Personally, I’d like to be knocking on the door of the first team a lot more, featuring regularly for the U23s and just enjoying my football.

 

As we’re putting you ‘under the radar,’ we want to ask you what names you think are flying under the radar right now. Firstly, what new music artists should we all be listening to right now?

 

I’ve been listening to a lot of Gunna. Spending Addiction is my go-to track.

 

What is the best undiscovered TV Show?

 

I’m still on Game of Thrones! I don’t need no other TV shows right now…

 

What other young players in world football should we be looking out for? 

 

Ben Cottrell at Arsenal is a top player – technically he’s class and makes the game look so easy.

 
 
Jamie Bowden

Jamie Bowden is Tottenham Hotspur’s latest local lad. Born in North Middlesex Hospital and brought up in Tottenham, he is hoping to make the breakthrough in the 2019/20 season after getting a taste of the action when he was part of the travelling Spurs squad that knocked Manchester City out of last year’s UEFA Champions League. A deep-lying central midfielder with a great range of passing, Jamie’s all-round ability and his creative spark is what is keeping him at the forefront of a lot of Spurs’ fans minds ahead of the new season. Although, by his relaxed demeanour , you might not guess that he’s tipped to follow in the foot steps of Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp as the next homegrown talent to walk into the heart of Tottenham’s midfield.

 

When was the first time you fell in love with football?

 

The tournament when I first got scouted. I was just six years old. There was three of us who got scouted that day for our Sunday League team. Two of us are still at Spurs while one of the boys is now at QPR. It would be a dream if we could all play with or against each other in the future.

 

Who was your first football hero?

 

In terms of my own game, I consider myself a Sergio Busquets kind of player. I used to watch him a lot playing for Barcelona back in the glory days. If only he played for Spurs. 

 

So, has it always been Spurs for you?

 

Always, always, always. No one else. I’ve always been a Spurs fan. I used to live two minutes away from the ground when I was younger and whenever we scored I could hear it in my front room. So, when I say it’s a dream come true to be playing for Tottenham I really mean it.

You’re on the cusp of the first team at what is one of the most exciting times in Tottenham’s history. What is the atmosphere around the club right now?

 

It’s unbelievable right now. I went to Manchester with the squad in the quarter final of the UEFA Champions League against Man City. The celebrations afterwards were surreal. I was in and amongst it all. Celebrating with all the players that I’ve been watching on the TV and idolising my whole life was just crazy.

 

Is there a particular member of the Spurs’ first team squad that always looks out for the younger guys when they make the step up?

 

All of them are incredibly welcoming and open, you can ask them anything, but I’d say Christian Eriksen and Ben Davies are two that have been a big help to me.  They’ve given me a lot of advice and are always there to talk to when you need them, which is comforting for any young player.

 

What’s the biggest step up from being involved with the youth ranks to then getting the invite to train with the first team?

 

Technically I’m confident to play with the main group but I’d say the biggest challenge is the intensity and the physicality of the game at the top level. It takes a bit of getting used to.

What do you consider to be your biggest strengths in your game?

 

My passing ability is my top attribute. Again, a little bit like Busquets in the range of passing that he can pull off. I feel like I have that kind of variety in my game too.

 

What does success mean to you? What are your ambitions for the 2019/2020 season? 

 

Hopefully making my full first team debut in the new stadium. That’s the big dream.

Vol. 2

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Issue 02: Heart & Soul
Ada Hegerberg, Andre Gray, Maya Jama, Andreas Perreira, Christian Pulisic
GAFFER Issue 02: ‘Heart & Soul.’ Honouring the way football cultivates community spirit, empowers the next generation and gives fans, teams and players something bigger and more beautiful to believe in. Be prepared to meet the people who are driving the culture to new heights and those who are set to change the face of the game forever.
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