Thursday, December 1, 2022

Plight of predecessors should serve as a warning to Arsenal scholars

Harlow Town, VCD Athletic, Wealdstone FC, Weston-super-Mare AFC. These are some of the teams that former Arsenal youngsters, who put pen to paper on their scholarship deals at London Colney five years ago, are currently playing for.

It should serve as a reminder, if needed, to the current crop that earning a scholarship deal at a major club is by no means a guarantor of success in terms of establishing a professional career. Last week a new set of scholars embarked upon their journey as they started training full-time, but they should be aware that it requires much hard work and dedication just to make the grade at a professional club, let alone one as established as Arsenal.

There are some promising talents in this year’s scholarship intake. Central-midfielder Marcus Tabi (pictured), for example, impressed for Arsenal at U18 level last season and went on to feature for the Republic of Ireland at the U17 European Championships in May. Winger Nathan Tella fended off competition from Brooklyn Beckham to earn a scholarship deal, whilst the new signings- Kostas Pileas, Vlad Dragomir, Yassin Fortune and Jordi Osei-Tutu- will all be looking to hit the ground running in their first season in North London.

The rest of the intake is made up of Hale End products in defender Tolaji Bola, midfielder Charlie Gilmour, wingers Joe Willock and Eddie Nketiah and striker Josh Da Silva.

It can be rather alarming at times to look through the subsequent careers of former Arsenal scholars. There have been some notable success stories, such as Jack Wilshere, Ashley Cole, Cesc Fabregas, Kieran Gibbs, Wojciech Szczesny and Hector Bellerin, but others have been without a club for a prolonged period and some have dropped out of the game altogether.

The standard is remarkably high. Some players who sign scholarship deals don’t even get close to the U21 set-up, whilst, even if they do, it is incredibly difficult for youngsters to convince senior managers that they are worthy of a place in the 25-man Premier League squad once they hit the age of 21.

It is important, then, to measure expectations accordingly. With some players, such as Bellerin for example, it is clear from the offset that they have the potential and the ability to succeed. In other cases players can develop at a slightly slower rate but still carve out a relatively successful career.

If a player struggles to make much of an impact during the first year of his scholarship, however, then the writing can be on the wall for their future career. Failure to earn a professional deal at the conclusion of their scholarship can be especially disheartening and can lead to players falling out of love with the game.

When the standard is so high, though, such ruthlessness is needed when making decisions about who to keep on and the new intake of scholars should be aware of just how quickly things can change regarding their footballing careers.

One season you could be training occasionally with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez and a couple of years later you may find yourself playing non-league football in front of a small crowd. Such is the nature of youth development.

Jeorge Bird is the author of  Follow him on Twitter @jeorgebird







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Too true. I can remember getting excited over many a young player with very few coming through in the end.

Good luck to them, though best to have a back-up plan(s)…


In Germany I think academy players are forced to take the equivalent of A levels and in American sports they have to complete at least one year of university (not sure if the last point was accurate). We need something like that here because when a lot of these kids drop out they have no qualifications and many from poorer backgrounds tragically turn to crime

Neil #2

Having made money (as a university student) tutoring athletes in a major American university, I can say that the setup here exploits young men and women. Universities (especially those in the highest ranked sports tiers) make quite a bit of money off of their sports teams. Since athletes are only allowed to play if they maintain a certain average grade, unis find ways of ensuring their “success” — where I was, athletes frequently were able to take classes apart from the student body. So instead of taking “Great Works of American Lit” (for instance), one athlete I tutored took “Great… Read more »


Jordi Osei-Tutu will be an adequate replacement for Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill I hope. So does the Arse Gent.


It must be hard for them, as the competition is so intense, and these kids give everything, probably to the detriment of other aspects of their lives like education, and so to fail, the fall must be hard.

Me So Hornsey

Reading this, I find it even harder to understand how Emmanual Frimpong got away with his self-branding shannanigans.

Well actually, I suppose he didn’t get away with it at all in the end. But there was a time I’m sure, when he was slightly ahead of Coquelin in the pecking order.

Determination and dedication can be huge factors at youth level for sure.


Frimpong was supremely talented. At one point, he was seen as the shining light of the academy along with Wilshere, and a bigger talent than Afobe.
He is an idiot to have thrown it all away.


Do the scholars get much time to study for non football qualifications before and after training? How often do they train?


Wealdstone is my local team and I object to use of the word “Plight”!

Monkey nights

Wealdstone are my local club also and anyone who lives in the Harrow Ruislip area should get on down there for a game if they haven’t got anything better to do with their time. They are responsible for wankers like Vinnie Jones and Stuart Pearce but don’t hold that against them.

reggie cordice

Up the stones. Good little bar at the ground too

Le Jim

Wealdstone FC!

Is that the team who the Wealdstone Raider supports? The guy’s a legend haha!

Mein Bergkampf

I was in the Villa youth set up at Bodymoor Heath from 13 to 16. I now teach English. As the Americans would say, go figure.

A Yank

A) I love your username.

B) Any way to contact you to ask a couple of questions? I’m hesitant to put my email on a mostly-public forum. Maybe one of us could create a burner/garbage account for a single use.

Mein Bergkampf

No worries. My email is [email protected]


Very few will make it. For what everyone is still saying about having to bring in players (EVERY season), granted, they tend to forget squad development. This last season we saw both Coquelin and Bellerin come through with flying colours. These were positions where many prattled on about how Coquelin was on his way out and we needed a DM AND how Jenkinson should be brought back in. ALL wrong. This coming season, we will again need to reinforce from market as we have done with Cech. But lets not forget we have a number of players on the cusp… Read more »

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