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June 2021

Players wanting to leave and youngsters wanting a chance: same old Arsenal.

by Tony Attwood

Each year for the past eight or so years I have written a booklet on one period of Arsenal’s history, which is published by the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association in the early part of the new season.

This summer the booklet was on the early years of the reign of Bertie Mee, a period that leads from the absolute chaos of Billy Wright’s reign as manager, to Bertie Mee winning the Fairs Cup and doing the Double (or as some supporters would say these days, “winning the league”, since the FA Cup is not a trophy).  And one of the things that struck me in doing the research was the huge number of players at the time who demanded transfers away from Arsenal.

Alan Skirton, Ian Ure, George Eastham, George Armstrong, Colin Addison, Jon Sammels, Bobby Gould, George Johnston, Peter Marinello…  I really had no idea that they all wanted out until I did the research.

At that time (late 1960s), freedom of movement for players had not been fully established.  George Eastham had gone on strike in order to force his move to Arsenal from Newcastle, and in so doing had changed the “retain and transfer” law which had been established through an Arsenal court case in 1893.  But the new law now merely allowed players the right to resign from their employment.  They were not allowed to work in football again, until the club that held their contract released them.

Such was the desire to leave Highbury at the time that some of these players, Ian Ure most notably, announced that they were willing to leave football, and go and do another job, rather than stay at Arsenal.

For most of the players, the desire to leave was about money and more playing time, although some (Jon Sammels and Peter Marinello in particular) wanted out because of the crowd.  Sammels, a fine player in his day but who like everyone could make the occasional mistake, was booed and jeered constantly by the North Bank, and Marinello, who had never lived up to his billing as a brilliant winger who would “take the club to the next level” received huge levels of hate mail (the 20th century equivalent of getting abuse on social media).

Such history reminds us that there is not much new in football; the disgruntled crowd forcing players out, players thinking that life was going to be better anywhere other than at Arsenal, and the media endlessly stirring it all up which shock horror headlines about turmoil – and all just before getting three trophies (one in modern counting) in two seasons.

I thought of this while reading about Jadon Sancho, described as a “Manchester City teenage prodigy” who has apparently wandered off, after a period of not turning up for training.  It seems he was left out of the Man C tour squad, and just went walkabouts, even though a lot of other clubs would love to sign him (for his football skills if not his discipline).

And I’m reminded of many people I’ve come across who genuinely believe that the rest of the world is ok, but they just happen to be in the one place that isn’t.   The one university that is awful is the one they are at.  The one employer who makes unreasonable demands (like turning up for work on time) is the one they work for.  The one football club that doesn’t understand the player is the club they happen to have signed.  The reality is always different: nothing is perfect, everything is what you make it, there are idiots in positions of authority everywhere.  That’s how it goes.  It’s not just where you are, it is everywhere.

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Anyway, it seems Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Red Bull Leipzig are all on the look out for the player, although whether he will be worth the baggage he brings, remains to be seen.

I remember the Arsenal scout Danny Karbassiyoon saying once that the most talented player he ever saw was Quincy, but that he was also the one who wouldn’t follow the rules of gong to bed on time, having a healthy diet etc, but was instead often found to be having his own fun in nightclubs.  Thus his career never reached the heights that it should have done.  And maybe that is what is going on here.

Sancho joined Manchester City from Watford for £500,000 in 2015 and became the Golden Player at the European Under-17 Championship this summer.  The feeling is he wants to come back to London – rather than stay in Manchester, which I guess is understandable.

There is though a broader aspect to this.  The fact that Arsenal do give some of their youngsters a chance always enhances Arsenal’s reputation among young players.  True, this summer we lost some – Chris Willock I particularly remember us wanting to retain.  But others are inspired by the progress of Maitland-Niles, Bellerin, Coquelin, Nelson, Iwobi, Wilshere, Reine-Adelaide etc etc.  Not too many teams can point to such a list.

Of course there was outrage from the media and their fellow-travelling Arsenal supporters when Bellerin got his first chance, and a claim that relying on “kids” was Arsenal’s failure.  There will always be such comments, but I think the nurturing of a solid youth structure is always one of the good bits.


5 comments to Players wanting to leave and youngsters wanting a chance: same old Arsenal.

  • MickHazel

    Sancho signed for Borrusia Dortmund….

    ‘On 31 August 2017, Sancho joined Borussia Dortmund for a fee reported to be in the region of £8m and was immediately included in the first team squad taking the number 7 recently vacated by Ousmane Dembélé.’ (Source Wikipedia)

  • insideright

    , Ivan Gazidis stated that the Club’s strategy as to increase the number of home grown players in the first team squad to 50% or 75% if you included youngsters brought in from other clubs as teenagers. Moe recently Arsene Wenger stated that the number of players ‘seeing out their contracts’ and moving on without a transfer fee being involved would steadily increase across the whole market.
    Put the first statement together with the second and you have a picture of the future not just for Arsenal but probably for many clubs who have invested in their academies and who no longer want to be reliant on a vastly inflated transfer market.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    A footballer has to first be a kid player before he can become an adult player. Wouldn’t he?

    At any rate, Arsenal should not deviate from their youth players development policy as currently in place in their academic aged schools but hold on tightly to it. For, at the end of the day, their youth schools will surely yield good dividends for them in their investments and staking in their academic youth schools as these schools will surely produce high quality youth players for Arsenal FC who will later on developed to top class senior players for the club and save them some money in not have to enter the transfer market always for player signing e.g. Jack Wilshere, but for his constant injury picking that slowed him down attaining world class status as he has the talent and shown it he can become one.

    The hopes and the onus are now on Reiss Nelson, Joseph Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Cohen Bramall(but surpringly loaned out) and Edward Nkethia to all further develop within the shortest possible time during this season’s campaign into top class players for Arsenal able to play for the club efficiently and be productive in their playing for the club in terms of goals scoring ability and assisting to score goals. Because it’s the playing to score goals that win matches and not mere playing beautifully in games which if no ciga is lighted at the end will amount to playing to the gallery. But Arsenal want to win their matches. Therefore, these five youngsters whom 3 of the of promotees recently promoted to the senior team that remain at the club this season MUST eschewed any form of indiscipline in all ramifications of their professional careers at Arsenal on and off the field of playing. But work very hard everyday on the training ground and on the field of play by seizing the chance when given to them and be diligent to make very good use of it for Arsenal and for themselves too.

  • Flares

    Speaking of players wanting to leave, didn’t take Oxlade-Chamberlain long to start with his rubbish, gushing so hard today in an interview about Klopp and at such length, it sounds like he wants to marry the bloke. Absolutely cringeworthy; embarrassing for the lad and for Liverpool football club. You got your dream move, now shut your mouth, get your head down and prove yourself.