With the Transfer Window closing and the Gunnersaurus scandal, it might have gone unnoticed what a proud week this could be for our academy. Bukayo Saka on Thursday could join Maitland-Niles (who got his first cap last month) in being the latest graduate from our youth team to represent England at senior level.
I’m going to cover my lifetime, so if they were developed at Arsenal and played for us in the Premier League and then played for the Three Lions, they make my list.
So I have nothing against the likes of David Rocastle, I just needed a time frame to work on, plus it became more unlikely in the Prem era for teams to make their own stars.
If your older though, feel free to add any names in the comments.
Ashley Cole 107
Only 5 men have played for England more than Ashley Cole. His understanding on our left-hand side with Pires and Henry was seen as vital to the most successful period in our history, while at Chelsea he became even better defensively.
The manner of how he left his boyhood club and his personal life mean that maybe the fullback didn’t always get the credit he deserved. In my opinion he was the only talent in his country’s ‘Golden Generation’ who was consistently World Class. Check out his displays against Ronaldo in 2004 and 2006.
Tony Adams 66 Caps
While England Managers refused to build their team around one of Britain’s most famous back 5’s, they did include its main orchestrator. In the 90’s there was a heavy drinking culture at both our captain’s club and when on International duty. In subsequent autobiographies he has admitted he would deal with the pressure of World Cups and European Championships by drinking.
Arsene Wenger introduced training and dietary methods which extended the centrebacks career by a few extra years, making him the only English player to play in a tournament in 3 separate decades.
Had the armband for the last ever match at the old Wembley.
Martin Keown 43 Caps
Perhaps the only mistake George Graham ever made in terms of our defence was selling Keown in 1986 only to rehire him years later. During that time he had played at Euro 9,2 yet seemed to divide opinion.
Terry Venables never selected him, Glen Hoddle took him to a World Cup but never played him, Kevin Keegan was the only man to try and recreate his club partnership with Tony Adams.
Keown is another player to thank Arsene Wenger for introducing training and dietary methods which extended and maximised his career, going to a World Cup at the age of 36.
Jack Wilshire 34 Caps
It’s hard for me to write this in the week he has been released by West Ham (and I am planning an article about Super Jack!) because I really thought he was the next big thing for our country and club. So did the likes of Xavi and Iniesta after he stole the show against Barcelona. Steven Gerrard predicted he would captain the Three Lions.
He played for the club he loved and for his nation so his dreams came true, but mentally it must be hard to deal with the fact that your mind is willing… but the body is not.
His ability was never in question. Educated by Arsene Wenger, he was taught how to play the game the right way and had the technicality that most English players didn’t.
His ankles just kept taking a battering. He maintains he can still play at the Highest Level and that West Ham simply have chosen to not select him, nothing to do with his fitness, so It would be wrong to say he won’t add to his caps as yet. Yet he needs to go to a League less physically demanding and reinvent himself.
Paul Merson 21 Caps
If you ever listen to a Graham Taylor or Harry Redknapp, they treat Merson like a Paul Gascoigne, desperate to help the joker off the pitch because they know he was capable of something special on it. The now pundit has been very honest about his battle with addictions which maybe robbed him of his powers at his very best. I would have loved him to have worked with Mr Wenger longer than he did.
Ray Parlour 10 Caps
Called the ‘Romford Pele’ as an affectionate term, but it’s also irony from Gooners that a player trusted to play every week for ‘The Arsenal’ would struggle to get picked for England. It took 7 years after his Gunners debut to get a cap at which point he had lifted the Cup Winners Cup, 2 FA Cups, The League Cup and Premiership. One of our greatest to never feature at a major international showpiece.
Kieran Gibbs 10 Caps
This might surprise some as some Gooners might view Gibbs as the face of the Arsenal in Mr Wenger’s last few years. Gibbs was a youngster given many opportunities, but became stagnant by staying around for too many years. What boyhood fan wouldn’t want to be paid to play for the club they love even as a squad player, compared to playing every week but at West Brom? His issue was his ability to stay fit, so it was felt it best for all parties for a fresh chance. I’m not sure he’s re-found his confidence at the Hawthorns.
David Bentley 7 Caps
At one-point Spurs paid 17 million for this player and due to his set piece ability, he was compared to being the ‘next Beckham’. Yet I always maintained there was a reason Mr Wenger washed his hands of him. Think how many opportunities the manager gave to youth players, some would argue too many. So why would he give up on such an obvious talent? Having worked with the very best he quickly would know a players heart, desire, how much they want to succeed. Bentley retired at the age of 30 claiming to have lost passion for the sport.
So as you can see in the Prem era, it’s hard with all the money around and foreign players to, as a youngster, not just play for the first team but also get noticed by England.
So congratulation to Maitland-Niles and hopefully Saka for representing Arsenal with England. Credit to our Academy.
If you want to discuss pre- the Prem era, maybe put together an 11 in the comments.
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