Exclusive: Arsenal Academy’s Amelia Bloom on her American Dream, academy success and playing the Arsenal Way

The midfielder will head to the University of Massachusetts after four years with Arsenal

Exclusive: Arsenal Academy’s Amelia Bloom on her American Dream, academy success and playing the Arsenal Way

Amelia Bloom in midfield for Arsenal. The 18-year-old will depart the Gunners this summer with plenty of fond memories.

Whilst the likes of Michelle Agyemang, Naomi Williams and Freya Godfrey have progressed from Arsenal’s academy to signing professional deals and playing first-team football in N5, other Gunners prospects have taken different paths after their time in the academy comes to an end.

This summer, four players will depart Arsenal U21s to move to various universities in the United States of America, where they will combine playing football (the English kind, of course) with four years of education.

Arsenal’s Amelia Bloom is set for a move to the University of Massachusetts after four years in red and white, and spoke exclusively to the Gooner Fanzine.

The pull of the USA

“It was something that people talked about- ‘If you want to be successful, go to America,’ Bloom told the Gooner. “It’s not the only pathway now but it’s always been a big one.”

The midfielder was reached out to by agency Athleticademix, who had also helped set up Arsenal teammate Sienna Hurrell’s move to Louisiana. 

“They get in touch with different colleges, create a profile for them, and once you’ve decided, take you through the steps. They got in touch with me and I was always open to the idea.”

Bloom spoke to a number of universities but settled on Massachusetts, where she will study and play in Amherst, a couple of hours west of Boston. The 18-year-old will study sports management, but will have two years to officially declare a major.

“They give you time to figure out what you want. I think here at university, expecting 17/18-year-olds to have an idea of what they want to do straight off the bat I think is very demanding, pressurising.”

Having spent two years combining playing for Arsenal with living and studying at Oaklands College in Saint Albans, Bloom believes she is well prepared for the university experience in the U.S.

“I love the environment you have of living with like-minded people, because we live with all other sports athletes. Being able to share experiences and hear about other things whilst also doing your education and doing football, and it is like a stepping stone to what it’s going to be like. 

“Obviously the next time we do it will be across seas, but in terms of the environment we will be in, I think it’s a good way to prepare yourself. I know how much I’ve enjoyed my two years here, so I don’t have a doubt how much I’ll enjoy America.”

The pull of college sport

Whilst the rise of women’s football in England has helped clubs hold on to top academy talents rather than following the allure of Stateside scholarships, the USA continues to be a world-leader in the women’s game due to its thriving college system.

When Title XI was passed in 1972, the creation of women’s soccer teams in the U.S. was spurred across the country. The civil rights law outlawed gender discrimination for federally-funded education programmes, helping the women’s game in America become world-leading.

Whilst other countries have been able to compete with the USWNT in more recent times on the international stage, Bloom argues that the country’s college system will continue to give it an advantage.

“In terms of what English football needs to do to catch up I think it’s almost difficult to compare because the system in the U.S. is so different in terms of athletics and any sort of sport when it comes to university. 

“College sport is almost as big as professional sport out there, and we don’t quite have that system. So I think it’s hard to sort of replicate a similar thing but more so the opportunities, and I think that’s what England is definitely getting better at, giving the opportunity for women’s football to come about, because now America isn’t the only option.”

Lotte and Lessi Russo

Two Arsenal and Lionesses stars in Lotte Wubben-Moy and Alessia Russo both began their careers in England before moving Stateside to play for the North Carolina Tar Heels, the university that also boasts USA international and Arsenal right-back Emily Fox as an alumnus.

“Having role models and idols like that to show you how it can be done, I think it is fantastic,” said Bloom.

“I think women’s football in England is growing but it’s always been a staple in the U.S. They’ve been a leading country at it for a number of years, and whilst in the best way possible European countries are catching up, that pathway has always been highlighted as the best- you get treated like a true professional in the USA, you get a taste of what that would be like whilst also education.

“Definitely, it was an inspiration for me to decide to take that pathway through football because after four years in America you can go wherever- you can stay there, you can come back to England and pursue a career there but that’s definitely the plan for me, and it’s what I want to do.”

Ending on a high in Zurich

A 3-1 play-off final defeat to Manchester United was all that prevented Arsenal Women U21 from an all-conquering league campaign in 2023-24. The Gunners won the PGA Southern Division but then lost to Northern Division champions United in the overall final at Hemel Hempstead Town.

“We were disappointed after the United result,” Bloom reflected. “The season’s long and it’s hard, and you have ups and downs, and we had the positives of beating Chelsea and winning the Southern League- things falling into place.

“But that’s football and things like that happen, and I know how disappointed all of the girls were with that result.”

Arsenal picked themselves up and were granted the opportunity to head to Switzerland for the Blue Stars FIFA Youth Cup tournament in Zurich, where the Gunners were crowned champions after a penalty shoot-out win over FC Basel.

A fitting farewell for Bloom and her fellow departing teammates: “The way we bounced back in Zurich, especially after our first day in Zurich wasn’t quite how we wanted it to go and it wasn’t looking too positive, but on the second day the way we fought and started building it up, and to get to the final and win it, especially on penalties- both the semi-final and final. 

“It was just fantastic, and I think it was a great reflection of our team spirit and how we are. We never stop, we always keep battling no matter what, and I think it was nothing less than we deserved, having that success after such a long season.

“It was an amazing way to end it with a fantastic group of people, so I don’t think I’d change anything if I could. The way we ended it was just perfect.”

Playing the Arsenal way

Creative midfielder Maddy Earl was crowned Player of the Tournament in Zurich, and a few weeks later was running the show off the bench in Arsenal senior side’s post-season friendly in Australia.

“Maddy is unbelievable,” said Bloom. “The way she moves with a football is like none other, I haven’t seen anything like it. She’s a nightmare to have in training because you can't get anywhere near her but she's fantastic to have in the team in games.

Bloom spoke in glowing terms of Earl and her counterparts who have been granted first-team opportunities. “Playing alongside the likes of Michelle Agyemang who got her first team contract, players who are going towards that direction like Katie Reid and Viv Lia, just playing with players of that calibre is fantastic and it’s a real privilege to share the pitch with them and to train with them. 

“When they go off to the first team and they come back, hearing about their experiences and what it’s like, I think it’s a fantastic drive and great motivation to see it happen in front of our eyes.”

Reid and Lia, to name just a couple of academy graduates, have slotted almost seamlessly into the first team whenever they have been granted the opportunity. It’s all down to the old cliché, playing the Arsenal way.

“It’s something that I think they drill into us from the start. We always hear ‘this is what they’re doing in the first team so it’s what we’ll be doing here,’ so they try and replicate the environment as much as they can. 

“They’ve even done a few training sessions this season where they’ve brought up all of the Under-21s to train in the first-team environment to get a taste of what it’s like. The ‘Arsenal Way’ and the way we play, and I guess the values of the club are brought down through the ranks completely. 

“Laila Harbert as well, I’ve always seen it in her play- the way she plays, she might as well be a professional already with her composure and everything. I think that definitely is brought down right from the very start- when the first team try something new and switch it up, we do the same.”

Academy progression

Crossovers between Arsenal’s academy and first-team have increased, with academy players heading to London Colney during international breaks when senior numbers are short. 

When the likes of Teyah Goldie and Laura Wienroither take their final steps towards returning from injury, they will play behind closed doors games with the Under-21s.

“They're always lovely whenever they come down, and they’re true professionals in the way they do it where they set a great example of the behaviours that they’re taught on matchdays and at training. I think it’s fantastic the way they carry themselves and the way they perform, always keeping themselves to the highest standards. 

“It’s lovely to be able to talk to them a bit and get to know them and sort of hear what they have to share about what they do because it can only ever help us learn.”

Bloom and her academy teammates also played their first game at London Colney earlier this year, up against Aston Villa. “We were the first Arsenal academy team to get the experience to play there, on the women’s side at least. Seeing that sort of thing happening, and hopefully it happening more in the future, is a great development for the club and for the game.”

High praise for Honeyman

Arsenal Women academy manager James Honeyman gave Bloom the opportunity to trial with the Under-16s shortly after he took the job with the Gunners, and the young midfielder will be forever grateful to the coach who she had worked with before both headed to Arsenal.

“He’s fantastic at what he does, he’s so knowledgeable about the game and understanding of what’s best for each player individually and the team, and I think that’s what’s got him to where he is now, he ticks every single box that a good and successful coach needs, and he’s getting the success he deserves out of it by being involved with all aspects of the club now.

Bloom first met Honeyman through some connections at the FA whilst playing for local grassroots club Chesham United, and her parents were contacted by the coach in order to arrange a trial.

“Every time I’ve worked with him I think he gets the perfect balance between being just a regular person in terms of someone you can speak to and someone to support us, but also having, in my opinion, the harshness that’s needed in this environment as a coach.

“I think I owe a lot of my success to him in how he’s helped me develop, and the women’s academy at Arsenal in general- we have a lot to owe to him.”

The American Dream

Whilst the top college stars will find their way through into the NWSL in America, or like Wubben-Moy and Russo, return to England in the WSL, others will crucially benefit from the educational side of their scholarships.

Bloom is fully aware of the importance of her degree: “Even if you have great longevity into your 30s, you’ve still got to have a plan afterwards, and I think having that degree is fantastic to have as that back-up.”

“I just want to embrace the whole experience as one, come out of it with a degree is pretty good because as good as a career football is, it’s not a very long one.”

On the pitch though, is where Bloom’s ultimate ambitions will come to fruition. “It’s always been my dream growing up to be a footballer, since I can remember,” she reflected. 

“I joined that grassroots team, Chesham United, when I was four years old and I was there until I was 14 before joining Arsenal, so it’s always been the biggest part of my life, football, and I can’t think of anything I want to do more other than continue it, wherever that be after the four years.”

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