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Jordan Wynter says he turned down a contract extension at Arsenal, because he didn’t see a way into the first team.
Wynter joined the Gunners as an eight year old, and signed his first professional deal 10 years later in 2012.
He made seven appearances for the top academy side (then the u21s) and Arsenal offered him a new deal in 2013.
However, the midfielder turned centre-back rejected the deal.
“In a nutshell I didn’t really see a pathway for me into the first-team,” the 24-year-old explained to the Express.
“At the time I felt a bit overlooked compared to other players. There were a few of my friends at that age who were playing first-team football but at a lower division.
“So I sort of had that idea and vision of me dropping down a few levels and trying to get some first-team action that way.”
The Englishman went on to play for six different clubs at senior level, including a couple of Football League clubs. He eventually settled in the National League, with Woking, where he plays in a new position at the back, saying he’s comfortable there now.
“It’s been a weird one to be fair, I didn’t initially plan to play centre-back at all but the opportunity came around and I felt like I’ve been able to take control of that situation,” Wynter explained.
“I feel more confident going into games than I did when I first started playing there. Hopefully I can continue this little bit of consistency and finish the season strong, on a high.”
Overall, a large number of players play for the Arsenal academy every year, but few make the first team.
If they all got senior opportunities, the Gunners would have a whole new line-up coming through each season. But you hope players like Wynter will find a regular starting spot elsewhere, as he has.
On the other hand, you also want your best youth players to see a clear route to the first team. Otherwise there’s no point having an academy at all.
Hopefully not everyone thinks the first-team overlook them. Wenger has given chances to a number of u23s this season, so that should encourage more of them.