Living the Soccer Dream with Frank Simek

<strong>Frank Simek (right) fights for the ball during the Coca-Cola League Championship soccer match at Hillsborough, Sheffield, England</strong><br><br>AP Photo/PA
After being born in the U.S., Frank Simek moved to England when he was 12 and started living a soccer player's American dream, developing his skills in the Arsenal youth system.? Simek took a moment to speak with Soccer365's Andrew Rogers about moving to England, pulling on an Arsenal jersey, and more.

AR: It's often been said that it's St. Louis, Missouri but Millstadt, Illinois is where you're actually from.

Simek: Yeah that's my hometown, when everybody asks me I usually say St. Louis because that's the big city and everybody knows where it is but 'Stadt's actually my hometown it's a little town in southern Illinois maybe about 3,000 people in it.

So in a town of 3,000 people, where does soccer fit into a young American's life?

To be honest I have played soccer since I can't even remember, it was one of the first sports I started playing. When I was real young I played that, and baseball was the other big one. I'd play soccer one half of the year and baseball the other half. Then obviously as I got older I started to focus more on soccer.

Would it be fair to say that football wasn't the be all and end all; there were still other avenues for you?

Up to a certain point, up until about 12 years old--that is when I really started to concentrate on soccer and that is when I really wanted to become a professional soccer player. Baseball is still something that I like to do, I still go to the batting cages or whatever but I'd say that from 12 onwards I really focused on soccer.

Is that when you came to England?

It is, yeah, we moved over here as a family and of course living in England it's hard not to get immersed in the culture over here, and obviously baseball is not played anywhere so I'm sure that had a lot to do with it actually.

Take us through the steps: You come over to live and then you became part of the Arsenal set up. That is any young player's dream. How did that come about?

Actually when we moved over here as a family I played for a Sunday league team and the coach of that was Tony Gale who was an ex-West Ham defender. He knew some people at Arsenal and he got me trials there. That was when I was about 12 and I was with them from around 12 to about 20.

At 12 years old did that shock or surprise you, was it intimidating? Obviously you were too young to appreciate it but at the same time did you realize the situation because this was a big occurrence for you.

Yeah it was, it was a big deal I mean previously we were here about two years and I knew all about Arsenal and how big soccer was over here. But to grow up in the Arsenal youth system that produced some good players--it's not an easy club to progress through because there are so many good players. But when you're working day in day out with those players it helps you tons as well.

A large number of our readers for some strange reason support Arsenal. Can you tell them about the Arsene Wenger youth set up or the Arsenal set up?

I think you have to look at it as one of the best in the world. What Arsene Wenger has done there is nothing short of spectacular. Look at the amount of money he spends, compared to the likes of Chelsea, how many people he brings through, and the scouting networks that they have.

Looking back, just being part of that youth set up maybe that's not a good thing for you because they are always looking to bring players in, trying to unearth the next gem from wherever. But that's what makes them such a good club as well you know, they bring in players like Fabregas who they didn't pay any money for and what he has done there to develop the young payers that he has brought in, Gael Clichy and players like that, he has done a fantastic job.

What did it do for your game, playing with the world's best?

I think it really helped it. When I was trying to break through I was 18 and I think I made my debut when I was 19 in the Carling Cup. It's tough though it's really tough to try and get into that team with so many world class players, and obviously they are always looking to bring in players to challenge you and to make the team better. But looking back it's a good learning experience to see how things are done there and also to work with world class players.
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