Who is our Best Youth Player over the last 20 years?

May 22, 2012

Who is the best player to come through the Arsenal Youth Programme? Not signed as kids like Theo, Cesc and Kolo from other clubs but actually raised at THOF

We have seen some wonderful players come through in the last 20+ years (which is my time frame). On a quiet day why don’t we have a little reminisce?

First up has to be Mr Arsenal. Tony Adams: TA joined AFC as at 15 and played in the first team at 17. He was captain at 21 having already won a trophy (the League Cup ’87). He then went on to Captain the club for 14 seasons, have a statue outside the Emirates and become a true AFC hero. Was he our best homegrown?

My 2nd Fave TA goal v THFC at Wembley

Or was it Rocky Rocastle? How many players are still sung about 20 years after he left the club? Rocky joined us at 16. Played in the Double team of ’89.  Sold when GG got sick of players with any flair, but left behind unforgettable memories to those lucky enough to see him in the jersey.

My Fave Rocky Goal (WHL 1987)

Or The Merse? Paul Merson was a special talent, capable of the most delightful lob I have seen. Not pray, not strong in the tackle but graceful and intelligent. It must be said that thanks to his off-filed activities he could be frustrating as well.  Injuries, off-field problems, lack of form all hindered him yetThe Merse remained a fan’s favourite.  AFter 12 years at AFC, Mr Wenger offered Paul a 2 year contract but The Merse went to *Boro who offered twice the wages (history repeats!).

A couple of years later and Ashley Cole forced his way into the first team, taking over from club legend, Nigel Winterburn. So much has been written about Cashley but whatever your standpoint on the man’s morality and general demeanor, he is without doubt a fantastic footballer. At 31 he remains the best LB in the PL if not the World, and I wish AW had paid him the extra money -he is that good.  3 PL medals, 7 FA Cup winners medals CL winner, 93 Caps, 5 times PFA team of the Year, twice UEFA LB of the year – a wonderful career, which shows that it is not always the nice guys who come first!

Wilshere. The Great Arsenal Hope. the player future England teams will be built around, let alone  The Arsenal. Who knows what would have happened had JW not missed the season?  The future midfield squad of O-C, Wilshere, Ramsey, Song, Coquelin and Frimpong (+ any signings) is frightening. Those early YouTube clips of JW controlling games at the age of 15 were so exciting. Jack is the Real Deal. Can he keep his feet on the ground and not become another Merse? Can he fully recover from his ankle injury and not become a Diaby? If the answer is Yes, then Jack Wilshere is very likely to be cast in bronze.

I have missed out some great homegrown Youth players: Parlour, Keown, Micky T etc ( I am sure there are others). For that I apologise.

Roll me down Coopers Hill and cover me in pig fat but in my opinion our greatest Youth player over the past 20 years has been Ashley. Odious man but top quality player.

What do you think?

Written by Big Raddy