Whatever happened to…#1 Bunjaku, Blackwood and the Academy’s biggest disappointment

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With Arsenal’s youngsters having only recently returned to training, there is little in the way of significant news regarding the club’s developing talents at present. Now, then, seems the perfect opportunity to commence a new feature entitled Whatever happened to…, charting the subsequent careers of the many products of the club’s youth Academy since it was granted full status in 1998.

ALBAN BUNJAKU

Signed scholarship: Summer 2010. First-team appearances 0. Subsequent career: Sevilla

The Romford-born youngster is one of the most technically-able talents ever produced by the club’s Hale End Academy, and, to many, it remains staggering that he was allowed to leave on a free last summer having fallen out with his coaches. An exquisite passer of the ball with superb passing ability, Bunjaku, who often dominated U18 games on his own as a first-year scholar, only received a fleeting taste of second-string football and has since headed to Spain to join Sevilla, where he scored his first senior goal earlier this season whilst playing for their ‘B’ side.

JAY SIMPSON

Signed scholarship: Summer 2005. First-team appearances 3 (2 goals). Subsequent career: Hull City, Millwall (loan). 

Now 24, hard-working striker Simpson holds the honour of scoring the first ever hat-trick at Emirates Stadium in the victory over Cardiff City in the FA Youth Cup in the stadium’s first season. Once referred to by none other than Thierry Henry as an impressive talent, Simpson worked his way up to the fringes of the first-team squad having featured many times for the Reserves, and scored twice for the first-team in the Carling Cup victory over Wigan Athletic in 2008. He also spent much time out on loan whilst contracted to the Gunners, particularly impressing at Millwall. He was let go in the summer of 2010 and has since, via another stint at the New Den, gone on to establish himself with Hull City in the Championship, and is closing in on 200 senior appearances.

JUSTIN HOYTE

Signed scholarship: Summer 2002. First-team appearances 68 (1 goal). Subsequent career: Middlesbrough.

An honest right-back but lacking a sprinkling of star quality, the elder Hoyte brother was part of the first-team squad for several years having been part of the FA Youth Cup-winning side of 2001. He frequently filled in when key defenders were absent and featured several times in the club’s 49-game Premier League unbeaten run, but never came close to establishing himself as a regular in the starting line-up. He spent time on loan at Sunderland and returned to the North East on a permanent basis in 2008 when he joined Middlesbrough. Hoyte, who was capped by England up to U21 level, has turned out over 100 times for the Championship side.

ANTON BLACKWOOD

Signed scholarship: Summer 2007. First-team appearances 0. Subsequent career: Tottenham Hotspur, Aveley, St. Albans City. Antigua and Barbuda caps: 1.

A surprising signing on a scholarship in 2007 from Northampton Town, Blackwood struggled to adapt to life at Arsenal and his early appearances for the club at U18 level were littered with defensive errors. He did impress on his debut for the Reserves against Reading, but his performances during the course of his contract were not enough to earn him an extended stay and, having failed a trial at Crystal Palace, he crossed the North London divide to sign for arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Blackwood, who is capable of playing at right-back and centre-back, also struggled to make the breakthrough at White Hart Lane and is currently traipsing around non-league football, although he did make a fleeting appearance for his country, Antigua and Barbuda, at senior level earlier this year.

MARCUS ARTRY

Signed scholarship: Summer 2002. First-team appearances 0. Subsequent career: None.

One of the most disappointing tales regarding Arsenal’s youth products, Artry was a talented midfielder capable of playing defence-splitting passes but found himself serving a lengthy prison sentence and his career in tatters before his scholarship had even reached its conclusion.

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15 thoughts on “Whatever happened to…#1 Bunjaku, Blackwood and the Academy’s biggest disappointment

    dann said:
    December 30, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Well that was a mortifying way to end the article jeorge

      bc said:
      December 30, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      Agreed – JB does Artry deserve any mention? i would recommend withdrawing that part of the article in respect of his victims.

        CharlieNicholas said:
        January 1, 2013 at 4:50 am

        Yes, i think bc’s right Jeorge, you should take a good advice, he really doesn’t deserve any kind of notice here. Keep up the good work Jeorge.

    Milo said:
    December 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Damn, now we are going to get all the conspiracy theorists and the “why did we ever let Bunjaku go???” people banging on about how great he will become, and how bad our coaches are…way to go Jeorge…oh well, it’ll keep things interesting I suppose…that being said, I was surprised that we let such a talent get away. I’m still conflicted myself about that issue…but I’m more concerned about the players that are at our club currently, than with a what could, or might have been case.

    Chippy said:
    December 30, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    What happend to the rest of Albans group;

    Sean McDermott – ?
    Steven Smith – Leicester
    Ali Sesay – Leicester
    Jamie Edge – ?
    Callum Webb – Bishops Stortford
    Jeffrey Monakana – Preston North End
    Joey Jones – ?

    Still at the club :
    Zak Ansah
    Nigel Neita
    Jordan Wynter

      Jom said:
      December 30, 2012 at 11:29 pm

      Rees is still here too. I like this idea of looking at the older class. Like class of 11/12, class of 10/11.

      Barrab said:
      December 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm

      Jamie Edge – Nike Academy

    D$ said:
    December 31, 2012 at 12:29 am

    I just read this interesting article
    http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/thescoutsnotebook/id/75?cc=3436

    Does anyone know much about these players and how they compare to the young arsenal lads?

    g said:
    December 31, 2012 at 4:29 am

    I still check up on some of our youth players once in a while, like lansbury and JET, to see how they are doing. JET’s starting most weeks, but Lansbury is a bench player mostly. I think Lansbury was an early developer as he hasn’t really improved much over the past 3 years. You could say the same about Jay Simpson. As far as Bunjaku and Curruthers go, I am probably more interested in their progress as we didn’t get rid of them because they weren’t good enough. Not that it matters as Bould and Banfield don’t work with the youth anymore. In the end, I doubt we will regret either decision that much, but I do expect those two to have better careers than a lot of our most highly rated youths.

    Marto said:
    December 31, 2012 at 10:51 am

    What about the current squad? Lets project 18 months ahead and see if there will be space for George’s recent selections as closest to the team squad (so they will not become whatever happened to). Evolution could be like this: By start of 2013/14 in first team squad 1. Miquel replaces Squillaci, 2. Eisfield replaces Ashavin, 3. Afobe replaces Chamakh, 4. Ryo replaces Park, 5. Campbell replaces Bendtner and 6. Yennaris replaces Denilson. By start of 2014/15 7. Gnarby replaces Gervinho, 8. Martinez replaces Fabianski, 9. Aneke replaces Rosicky, 10. Angha replaces Djourou,11. Meade replaces Santos, 12. Add Bellerin, Toral, Olsson and Akpom. Leaving a first team squad of:
    Keepers: Szczesny [age at start of 2014/15: 24], Mannone [26], Martinez [21]
    Defenders: Vermaelen [29], Mertesacker [30], Konscielny [29], Miquel [21], Angha [20], Sagna [31], Gibbs [24], Jenkinson [22], Meade [21], Bellerin [19].
    Midfield: Arteta [32], Coquelin [23], Frimpong [22], Yennaris [21], Wilshire [22], Ramsey [23], Diaby [28], Carzola [29], Aneke [21], Olsson [19], Toral [19].
    Forwards: Walcott [25], Giroud [27], Afobe [21], Akpom [18], Podolski [29], Ryo [21], Eisfield [21], Oxlade Chamberlain [21] Campbell [22], Gnarby [19].
    Its what we dream of, right???

      Roy said:
      December 31, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Yes, it’s what we dream of, but more realistically, it would be a good achievement to get maybe 4/5 of the u21 players promoted in the next 18 months… Let alone 14/15 players.

      Roy said:
      December 31, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Angha, Gnabry, Bellerin, Akpom are the 4 I’d project to make it to the first team in the next 18 months. Maybe throw in Olsson and Eisfeld.

      Valentin said:
      December 31, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      By 2014, I expect the following:
      1) Mannone and Fabianski to be sold and replaced by Martinez and Charles Cook
      2) Sagna to have joined an Italian club. Jenkinson to be promoted first choice right back but with Bellerin as his understudy
      3) Djourou to play for a decent German side. Miquel to have a Djourou like career at Arsenal: around the first team but never reaching the status of first XI choice. Angha to be used as Mister dependable on its way to a career a la Miquel.
      4) Santos to be gone (in fact I expect him to be gone by the end of this January). Meade to be sold to a championship or third tier premiership club. A career a la Justin Hoyte beckons.
      5) Diaby to have been forced to retire. Frimpong to play for a decent premiership club. Very good defensively but too limited in his passing ability to thrive at Arsenal. Ramsey to still hover around the first team, with everybody wondering why he is still at the club. He was never as good as people seem to remember him, but now his lack of mobility (maybe due to his injury) is clearly evident. When under pressure he always turns in the same direction, exactly the same way Wiltord used to only have one move. Wilshere to be the club captain. Arteta playing the role of the older, wiser statesman with knackered knees. Coquelin replacing Arteta as the more defensive player of the 2 in a 4-2-3-1. Cazorla would be playing for Barcelona replacing Iniesta. Aneke starting to come good, but still being inconsistent. Toral, Eisfeld, Olson on the fringe of the first team.
      6) Gnabry, Ryo, The Ox, Podolski alternating as the wide men. Potentially being eclipsed by a player bought since now. that player could be Zaha. Gervinho to either have step up a notch and being the main left wing man or having a career a la Arshavin: still at the club he loved, but unwanted by the manager.
      7) Walcott to regret having forced a move to bigger and more ambitious club, only to not play. Being kept because of the need to have home grown player and massive wage scaring any suitor. Giroud to have RvP season and being the main man. Akpom and Campbell fighting to play second fiddle to Giroud. Afobe being the Chamakh: talented but with a complete loss of confidence.

      The good news is that I expect that team to deliver at least one trophy.

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