Arsenal youngster Joe Willock has opened up about a bizarre medical condition that nearly curtailed his football career.
Willock scored twice in Arsenal’s 3-0 FA Cup win over Blackpool recently and is seen as one of the club’s hottest prospects right now.
Is Willock lucky to be a professional footballer? Five key things to know…
- Joe Willock has scored three goals in 14 senior appearances for Arsenal so far.
- Two of those goals came in the Gunners’ 3-0 FA Cup win over Blackpool last week.
- However, the 19-year-old admitted to having a condition which meant one leg was shorter than the other when he was younger.
- Willock says the condition affected his ‘running and technical ability’.
- But rather than treating the issue, the midfielder says he ‘adapted his body’ and allowed the shorter leg to catch up.
However, it could have been very different for the midfielder, who told Arsenal’s official website of a condition he suffered from that meant one leg was shorter than the other as a young boy.
“I didn’t really notice it too much at the time because my body was growing a lot, but it soon became a problem,” Willock said. “I remember my dad measuring how tall me and my brothers were and he noticed the issue. He saw that one of my knees was slightly higher than the other.
“I didn’t tell anyone at the time, I just tried to get on with playing football and training as much as I could. But then everything got harder.
“Having one leg longer than the other was affecting my running and my technical ability. I couldn’t play football in the way that I’d done my whole life, and it was the most frustrating thing I’d ever experienced.”
Willock then admitted he didn’t do anything to fix the issue, adapting to his own body instead.
“So you’re probably wondering how I fixed it,” he added. “Well, to be honest, I didn’t. I couldn’t. I just had to be patient and wait for my shorter leg to catch up with my longer one. But until then, I had to adapt to my body.
“Have you ever had to re-learn a skill you’ve been doing your whole life? It’s not easy. My balance and everything that comes with that had been affected. Fortunately, it didn’t last for long but that was a really challenging part of my life.”
Willock names Aaron Ramsey as an inspiration
A breakdown in contract talks may mean that Aaron Ramsey will soon be departing Arsenal, but that hasn’t stopped Willock identifying him as one of the senior players he has been taking inspiration from during his time with the first team.
The 19-year-old said: “It’s easy for me to see what the likes of Aaron Ramsey are doing in training, and it’s good for me to see how they handle things so that I can make sure I’m ready to play men’s football.
“I feel like I’ve done well, that I’ve shown little glimpses of how I can make a difference in the team. I’m just looking to continue pushing on and showing the coach what I can do.”
Willock has made 14 first team appearances for the Gunners so far, scoring three goals.
Arsenal’s next game is away to West Ham United in the Premier League on Saturday.