Frankie Kent: Colchester United defender named EFL Young Player of the Month

John McGreal and Frankie Kent
Colchester United manager John McGreal presents Frankie Kent with his EFL Young Player of the Month for December award

When you go for a job interview, the last thing you want to do is to turn up late and make a bad impression.

But for a 16-year-old Frankie Kent, who had just been let go by Premier League giants Arsenal, that was what happened when he arrived for a trial for John McGreal's youth side at Colchester United.

Flip forward a few years and Colchester boss McGreal has probably forgiven him for this little misdemeanour, given the fact the centre-back is now an integral part of his U's first team.

To prove Kent's role in Colchester's rise from near the bottom of League Two into the play-off places, the 21-year-old has been named the EFL Young Player of the Month for December.

However, it might not have ever happened had McGreal taken a dim view of his tardiness.

"I turned up late for my trial game," Kent told BBC Sport. "I was nervous about getting there and John said 'what time do you call this?' Straight away I thought 'oh no, I've got to impress him here'.

"I played and it wasn't the best but thankfully he gave me another chance."

Frankie goes to... the Weston Homes Community Stadium

Frankie Kent
Frankie Kent (right) has made 53 appearances for Colchester United since his debut against Walsall in 2014

Since that trial, Kent and McGreal have moved up the ranks at the Essex club together, through the under-18 and under-21 sides and in to the first team.

"He's made me the player I am today," said Kent. "There has been other coaching staff, but he's obviously been the main one as my manager and helped me evolved into who I am now.

"I'm still not the finished article and I'm still learning but I'm thankful to him for giving me the opportunity to play every week."

With Colchester "on their way to relegation" in the words of forward Kurtis Guthrie in mid-November, McGreal decided to switch tactics and use Kent, Tom Eastman and George Elokobi in a back three.

Since the formation change, the club are unbeaten in nine games, winning seven, and have moved up to seventh in the table.

McGreal has high praise for Kent's part in five clean sheets, having been close to going out on loan after returning from tendonitis earlier this season.

"If you look at the number of clean sheets we've had, he's brought an element of composure. He's a footballer and wants to bring it out from the back," said McGreal.

"It's not only his defending aspects, it's starting us from the back as well."

Iwobi was 'crazy'

Alex Iwobi
Alex Iwobi has made 26 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions this season, including all of their Champions League group matches

Kent's career in football started at the age of seven when he joined Arsenal's youth set-up, and he was part of the same age group as Alex Iwobi, who is now in the Gunners first team.

"Alex has just always been a crazy character, loves tricks and all of that sort of stuff. We're still really good friends, talk regularly and I'm really happy for him," said Kent.

"My age group did really well with everyone still being in football now, like Jermaine Anderson at Peterborough, who won this award as well."

But at the age of 16 and after countless tournaments with the youth team, Kent was going to be let go by the Premier League side.

"They called up my mum and dad to tell them and they then sat me down and told me the news," he recalled. "I sort of expected it but obviously it's still hard to take.

"But, instead of having a break, I knew what I wanted to do. Thankfully Colchester was one of the first clubs I came to and I got settled in quickly here."

So with his form as it is, could Kent get back into a Premier League side, as late in his career as he turned up for his Colchester trial?

"It's entirely up to Frankie how far he goes," said McGreal. "He's a ball-playing centre-back, he's 6ft 2in, he's getting more aggressive with his play and his reading of the game is excellent.

"He's still got a load to do, but a centre-back playing League Two football at 21, that bodes well for him."

Previous EFL Young Player of the Month winners