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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.