What were you doing aged 19?
Me, I was getting ready to start my second year of a university degree reading history.
At the same age Bukayo Saka was writing it.
In a team filled with incredible stories Arsenal’s starboy shone as bright as any this summer as he went from a questionable inclusion in Gareth Southgate‘s 26-man squad to a shock omission from the starting line up of English football’s biggest game in 55 years.
All the while he kept the humble attitude that makes him so easy to warm to and disarmed critics with a smile as wide as the Wembley arch he grew up dreaming of playing under.
“I just love him,” said Luke Shaw summing up the feelings of most.
It was a fairytale story for the man who endeared himself to the nation riding on an inflatable unicorn and one that ultimately deserved a better ending.
We could sit here and rightly question the decision to send up the youngest player on the pitch for the most important penalty of the tournament, but that will do little to stem the cycle of anger and negativity right now.
Instead it’s time to rally around Saka and ensure that he bounces back from this stronger than ever before.
This is a player who carried Arsenal through one of its toughest ever seasons with a sense of fearlessness and bravery that this course of events cannot be allowed to stamp out.
Gunners captains past and present in Jack Wilshere and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have led the tributes to the winger’s character and skill along with his close friends and fellow Hale Enders Emile Smith Rowe, Eddie Nketiah and Joe Willock to name but a few.
The club themselves have also put out a statement standing by their player and condemning the depressingly predictable racist abuse he received in the aftermath of Sunday night.
“Last night, we saw Bukayo Saka reach the Euro 2020 final at the age of 19 years old,” it read.
“Bukayo has been with us since he was seven and the whole club couldn’t have been prouder to see him represent England throughout the tournament. You could feel it right across the club.
“Last night we witnessed the leadership and character we’ve always known and loved in Bukayo. However, this feeling of pride quickly turned to sorrow at the racist comments our young player was subjected to on his social media platforms after the final whistle.
“Once again, we are sad to have to say we condemn the racism of a number of black players. This cannot continue and the social media platforms and authorities must act to ensure this disgusting abuse to which our players are subjected on a daily basis stops now.
“We have processes in place internally at Arsenal to ensure our players are supported both emotionally and practically on this issue but sadly there is only so much we can do.
“Our message to Bukayo is: hold your head high, we are so very proud of you and we cannot wait to welcome you back home to Arsenal soon.”
The summer window is officially open, and it’s going to be tough to keep up with the comings and goings in and out of the Emirates.
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Saka will come good again and it’s incumbent on everyone associated with Arsenal football club to ensure that happens.
Having leaned on him so much over the past 12 months, it’s time that we all returned the favour.