James Rowe spoke to Sutton United midfielder Craig Eastmond about playing in the National League, his youth career at Arsenal, and his ambitions for the future.
Can I ask your thoughts on the recent victory against Salford City in the National League in which you scored?
It was one of those matches where we knew we were facing a promoted side. We have been in the National League a long time and it was hard going 1-0 down, and I managed to score an equaliser.
After that we went down to ten men and everybody had to dig in, show our character, and show what we are made of as a team.
It was a good outcome in the end to win 2-1.
How are you finding the level of the National League having previously played at a higher level?
As you can see from last season it is a difficult league to get out of. You have to always be at it because you play so many matches and they all come thick and fast.
As a player you know that you are in for a hard match because everybody wants to play and get into league football.
Can I ask you about your youth career and Millwall and Arsenal. How do you look back on that time?
When I look back on it it was really good. I was at Millwall first and then I spent 10 years at Arsenal and I learned a lot.
When you are at a big club like Arsenal you are in a bubble and when you come out of it it’s like entering the real world. You learn your trade when you are young and I learned a lot ‘
Are there particular managers or people at the club that helped you on your way?
Neil Banfield and Steve Bould at Arsenal. Steve Bould was my manager at under 16 and under 18 level and I got on with him really well.
There have been so many managers coming up from under 16’s onwards. Steve Leonard who is maybe not so well known also helped me a lot at Arsenal, and not forgetting Arsene Wenger too, when I finally made my debut for the club.
As a young player back then, how was it for you to play under Arsene Wenger, and what would you say are his strongest qualities as a manager?
He believes in youngsters, as you know, and he gives every young player a fair chance.
He believed in me and gave me opportunities to play for the first team and he told me: “go out and enjoy yourself. I am picking you because I believe in you.”
Before my debut in the League Cup v Liverpool in 2009, I was shocked to hear the news that I would be starting.
As a youngster playing in Emirates Stadium it is overwhelming. You can’t describe it, especially your debut, being nervous with big players around you, but I think I dealt with it well.
You went on to play for Colchester United. How do you look back on your time at the club?
It was a surprising to make the switch from loans to going on to play a full professional season. playing matches week out week out.
The facilities and the stadium were different, and I went on to play more than 30 matches that season which was new for me having been on the bench at Arsenal and regular training.
I wanted to play football week in and week out and I managed to do that at Colchester United ‘
You have been at Sutton United for 3 seasons so far. How are you enjoying your time there?
I am really enjoying it. The manager, Paul Doswell, puts his trust in me and believes that I can push on and I believe that too.
I am playing week in a week out and I am enjoying it. Sutton United is a family club that welcome anyone to come down and watch a match. Sutton United is also not too far from my house.
I would like to get back into the Football League one way or another. I have to wait for the right move because I am not getting any younger.
Either with Sutton United or without Sutton United I want to be back in the Football League before I finish my career.
Could you say who are the best players that you have played alongside during your career so far?
Cesc Fabregas is just busy on the ball and his range of passing is fantastic.
Robin van Persie is a lethal finisher. With that left foot of his you think that you have got him onto his right, but he finds a way to get back on his left and unleash a shot.
Have you had opponents in your career so far that have stood out for you?
I would say Carlos Tevez. He is small but has a low centre of gravity it makes him so quick and nimble.
The player that surprised me the most was Gareth Barry, because everybody thinks that he just plays sideways.
He closes down players very quickly it’s like he is always two steps ahead of you.
I played against both players when they were playing for Manchester City.
Finally Craig we spoke about managers that helped you in your youth career. Who are the managers that have influenced your career the most?
I would say the managers that believed in me in that respect.
I would say Steve Bould, Paul Doswell, and Arsene Wenger. They are managers that I could speak to and even now Paul Doswell tells me that if anything is wrong just let me know.
As a young player it was nice to go to Arsene Wenger for advice and Steve Bould too due his career and success at Arsenal.