Football

Friday, 17 February 2017 | MYT 9:19 AM

Arsenal visit revives old memories for Sutton's Eastmond

LONDON (Reuters) - Like most of his team mates, Sutton United midfielder Craig Eastmond will be looking out for the big names when Arsenal turn up for their FA Cup fifth round on Monday against the minor league side.

The difference is that the 26-year-old part-timer might be a familiar face to some of the Arsenal players too.

Eastmond joined Arsenal's academy at 11 and played 10 matches for the first team, including a Champions League group stage game at Shakhtar Donetsk in 2010 and an FA Cup fourth round match at Stoke City.

In November 2010, he came on as a 73rd minute substitute for Robin van Persie in a 2-0 League Cup win over Wigan Athletic.

At Shakhtar's Donbass Arena, Eastmond started alongside Jack Wilshere -- now on loan to Bournemouth -- with Theo Walcott on the wing. He headed into his own net and was hauled off after 59 minutes.

Spain's World Cup winner Cesc Fabregas, now with Chelsea, was another team mate while England's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains a friend.

"It’s just amazing really, because when I left there I didn’t think I’d play against Arsenal again ever in my career," Eastmond, who has suffered plenty of injuries in his career, told Reuters at a media day.

"That’s what I had in my head.

"It’s one of my dreams come true, to play against Arsenal ... It’s one of those ones where obviously it’s going to be good seeing those faces again and hopefully they recognise me," he added.

"Hopefully (Oxlade-Chamberlain) is there so I can talk to him because he’s a friend that I know. And Francis Coquelin as well because he was there with me from the FA youth cup days so I know him very well."

Eastmond signed a long-term contract extension with Arsenal in 2010 but went to Millwall on loan in 2011 and then Wycombe Wanderers and Colchester United before Arsene Wenger let him go in 2013.

He joined Sutton in 2015, making his 50th appearance last November and voted player of the month by supporters, but has not given up on an eventual return to the higher echelons.

"I’m trying to open doors so I can get another chance to get back into the league, one way or the other. This is another chance, especially live on TV and a lot of people will be watching," he said.

"Hopefully I just do what I do."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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