By Danny Karbassiyoon
Danny Karbassiyoon is a former professional footballer with Arsenal who was forced to retire at 22 due to recurring knee injuries. Soon after hanging up his boots, he was hired as a scout for Arsenal and spent 7 years scouting the Americas full time before recently moving back to London.
I’m venturing off the path a bit here with the theme of my previous posts, but as the winter window has now closed and a selection of players from around the world have found new homes in the Premier League, I figured it might be interesting to write about the idea of finalising a transfer and transitioning to life at a new club.
Just like in any aspect of football, not all transfers are the same, and some are far easier than others when it comes to getting settled and acclimating to a new team. Transfers within the Premier League can often be much easier than foreign transfers as players leaving one Premier League club for another understand the demands of the league and the country they reside in.
Though difficulties will always arise when moving from one city to another, the biggest challenge a player faces is acclimatising himself within the team and feeling comfortable within the dressing room dynamic. When footballers are happy playing their football, they will usually be happy in their life off the pitch.
Foreigners leaving one league and coming to the Premier League face quite a challenge in fulfilling the promise expected of them by their new fans, manager, and club in general, but one of the biggest challenges comes away from the pitch. Though it may sound silly at times, adjusting to the weather and English culture can prove to be quite a challenge.
One of the questions I can’t help but ask when watching players in any region is will they be able to mentally and physically cope with England off the pitch? Would a kid accustomed to 350 days of sunshine a year in southern California or Mexico be able to deal with the rain, wind, and cold in England? Some can, others can’t – and it is generally up to a scout to understand a player in this way before he even thinks of recommending him.
Then of course comes adjusting to the football. England’s top flight games are fast, hectic, and demanding, and competition for places is always incredibly high. Coming into a new dressing room, especially in the middle of the season can be intimidating and players need to be both mentally and physically ready to dive right in and contribute in a positive way.
I personally joined Ipswich Town on loan from Arsenal about a year and a half into my contract and was thrown straight into the mix from the get go. I was brought in to help provide more options for Joe Royle as Town pushed for promotion in the 2004-2005 season and my first contact with the team was in the dressing room at Portman Road ahead of our game against Wigan on the night of December 21st.
At the highest level, players will generally know what the players that are brought in are capable of doing, but for lesser known players, proving to the team that you are capable of maintaining and improving the level early is vital. Regardless of your name, showing your teammates that you belong through your ability is the best way to earn their respect and be accepted.
As a 17 year old on trial at Arsenal, I didn’t want to believe Steve Rowley when he told me that it’d probably take a year for me to get settled and comfortable. As a 17 year old, I felt like I knew everything and didn’t want to hear someone tell me that I wouldn’t hit the ground running as soon as I signed my contract. A year later, after signing and moving to London, I quickly realized Steve was right.
Adjusting to the new, incredibly high standard of football at Arsenal was draining both physically and mentally. I quickly lost my confidence on the pitch, which soon started affecting me off the pitch. Was I good enough to be at Arsenal? Did I make the right choice? Would I ever get comfortable enough to express myself on the pitch the way I knew how? I thought about this often in my first year at the Club, and only overcame these issues nearly 8 months into my contract. Only when I was able to fully believe in myself again was I able to feel truly comfortable both on and off the pitch.
I always keep an eye on new signings, both at Arsenal and elsewhere, for this reason. The Premier League has seen some exceptional talent come and go, sometimes with the player going way sooner than expected simply because he couldn’t find his feet and settle.
One of the greatest things about the world’s top leagues and top teams is that they bring the world’s best players from every corner of the world together to compete and ultimately entertain. While many of these players make it look so easy week in and week out, the initial challenges of getting settled and winning the trust and belief of their teammates, manager, fans, and ultimately themselves can be very difficult.
Danny’s autobiography, with a Foreword by Arsène Wenger will be published by Untold Arsenal as a paperback and on Kindle in the near future. Full details of all of Untold Arsenal’s books, including Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace which has an introduction by Bob Wilson, are available on the site.
You might also enjoy The date no Arsenal fan will ever forget. By Bob Wilson
Earlier articles by Danny on Untold Arsenal
- How to Become a Football Scout
- A typical week in the life of an Arsenal scout
- How does an Arsenal scout decide if a player is good enough or not?
- Guns and bullets, carjackings and football: scouting for Arsenal.
From the anniversary files (more on the home page)
- 9 February 2007: Arsenal signed a deal with Colorado Rapids owned by Stan Kroenke; Arsenal’s first venture into the USA and the first meeting with the man who eventually bought the club.
- 9 February 2009: Joe Haverty died aged 72. (Also reported as 7 Feb). He played 114 games for Arsenal and scored 25 goals, before moving on to Millwall, Celtic and Bristol Rovers and Shelbourne, before moving to the USA in December 1966. He returned to Ireland in 1969, with Shamrock Rovers before moving on to Drogheda.