Wales teenager Aaron Ramsey believes his one-on-one chats with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger are guiding him along the road to stardom.
Ramsey, still only 18, is expected to win his ninth and 10th caps in Wales’ final two World Cup qualifiers over the next week.
That alone is a pretty impressive achievement at such a tender age but Ramsey believes he owes a debt of gratitude to Wenger, who this week became Arsenal’s longest-serving manager.
Ramsey is one of Wenger’s latest proteges, the Frenchman having snapped up the midfielder from Cardiff after the 2008 FA Cup final for £5million.
Ramsey gained a gentle introduction, mainly from the bench, last season at the Emirates.
But this term Ramsey has had more opportunities, and he said: “The manager has set me a target of 15 to 20 starts this season. We have little chats about my game, one-to-one and he does show a lot of interest in what I do.
“There is no question he looks after the youngsters like that, he has brought through so many young players. He has given them opportunities, developed them, and turned them into great players. I hope he can do that with me.
“He doesn’t shout at you, he is relaxed and tells you ways that you can improve. He is also very quick to praise if you do something very well in a game.
“Like if you make an assist instead of trying to shoot yourself, then he will tell you how great you are but he will always tell you the negatives, too.
“He has a great influence on me, you must listen to what he says and learn.”
Wales are already out of the running to qualify from group four, and Ramsey continued: “I’m hurt that we have not qualified because I felt we had a good opportunity to do it.
“But there are a lot of youngsters in the team and next time around we will be stronger and know what to expect.
“In the next campaign we will have a really good go and I believe we will do it next time.
“We have gained massive experience playing against the likes of Germany and Russia in this group, they have top players and you learn so much playing against them.
“You are facing some of the best players in the world. You get used to how quick and clever they are and you want to be competing against that quality.”
He added: “You have to learn and you try a bit harder when faced with that ability. It is a challenge I want.
“I am trying to work my way up the ranks at Arsenal, so let’s see where that takes me.
“I have had more chances this season, although people forget that although I did not start that many games last season, I still had 20 first-team appearances.
“That is about the same that I had with Cardiff the previous season. But Arsenal is obviously a much bigger step up and I know I am progressing.
“I have been happy with the chances I have had this season but I want more starts. I must keep improving to put pressure on the manager.”