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Gooner Patten’s joy as she returns to first love

Defender shares memories of Highbury and her introduction to Meadow Park football, as she rejoins Arsenal after studying in the US

04 February, 2021 — By Catherine Etoe

Anna Patten said it felt ‘amazing’ to be back in an Arsenal shirt. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ARSENAL FC

JOE Montemurro may have brought just one player in during this transfer window, but Arsenal fans can rest assured that he has signed one of their own.

Defender Anna Patten – back after an award-winning spell studying and playing in America – is not only an Arsenal youth product, she is also a Gooner.

In fact, if you ask the 21-year-old about her first match, she will take you back to January 2006 and a historic Saturday afternoon at Highbury.

That day, a six-year-old Patten and her uncle, a season ticket holder, watched Arsenal annihilate Middlesbrough 7-0, with Thierry Henry hitting a hat-trick to equal Cliff Bastin’s record of 150 league goals for the club.

“I definitely became more invested in Arsenal after that game,” she said in an online interview.

“[And] I’m very fortunate because I feel like not many kids, especially my age, got to go to Highbury.”

Yet while Highbury’s iconic stadium burns brightly in Patten’s memory, so does Meadow Park, Arsenal Women’s home ground in Borehamwood.

When she was 12, Patten went from buying replica Arsenal shirts as a fan to wearing the real thing as one of the club’s youth players. And she has fond memories of helping out at the senior side’s Women’s Super League matches, handing out programmes and chasing loose balls.

“I loved going to Meadow Park and being involved as much as I could,” she said. “I felt like I was part of it and people would ask, ‘Oh how was your game?’ and they were invested in us little girls as well.”

By 2017, having twice won the FA Girls’ Youth Cup with Arsenal as well as a third-place finish in the Under-17s European Championships with England, Patten had graduated to the pitch as a first-teamer.

Her debut came in a pre-season friendly against a Bayern Munich side featuring current Arsenal favourites Vivianne Miedema and Lisa Evans.

But she is probably best remembered by Arsenal fans as one of the teenagers who more than played their part in the WSL Spring Series that followed.

Patten would leave at the end of that campaign for university in America, and while she was away she won bronze with England at the Under-20s World Cup.

Now she is back and Montemurro expects her to become a special player for club and country.

“From my perspective, it’s just great that you’re able to grow with a young player that understands who we are and what we want to be,” said the Gunners boss. “So for her to be back with us, it’s exciting times.”

Arsenal’s new No 4 has already made her return, playing the first half in a 1-1 draw with Reading last month. She insists that there’s plenty more to come.

“It was so amazing to be back out there with the Arsenal shirt on,” she added. “It was a tough game but it was a learning curve for me.

“The WSL has definitely got more competitive since I left. You are competing with the world’s best and training, day in, day out, with the world’s best, so I can only get better and that’s what I want to do every day, get better.”

With their match against Aston Villa falling victim to the weather last weekend, fourth-placed Arsenal go into this Sunday’s televised BT Sport clash with Manchester City – who are third in the table – having played just once in 2021.

Emma Hayes’ defending champions Chelsea, meanwhile, overcame Spurs 4-0 to remain top of the WSL. They face Brighton on Sunday, while Spurs are away to Villa on Saturday – both matches are live on The FA Player.

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